President Biden signs landmark same-sex marriage bill into law


The White House was lit up in rainbow colours to celebrate the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act (Photo: The White House)

President Joe Biden has signed historic legislation that protects same-sex and interracial marriages across the United States.

While the Respect for Marriage Act does not in itself guarantee the right to marriage equality, it requires the federal government and all US states to recognise same-sex and interracial marriages that were registered in any state where they are legal.

The act also repeals the now-defunct 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which limited the definition of marriage to the union of one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognise same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states.

Biden’s signing of the law was celebrated at a festive ceremony at the White House on Tuesday. The event was attended by politicians, activists and couples who fought for marriage equality over the years, and included performances by Sam Smith, Cyndi Lauper and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC.

“Marriage is a simple proposition. Who do you love? And will you be loyal to that person you love? It’s not more complicated than that. This law recognises that everyone should have the right to answer those questions for themselves without government interference,” said Biden at the ceremony.

He thanked those who helped make the Respect for Marriage Act a reality. “So many of you put your relationship on the lines, your jobs on the line, your lives on the line to fight for the law I’m about to sign.”

Biden acknowledged that the act was passed with the support of lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

He said it was one thing for the Supreme Court to rule on a case but it is “another thing entirely for elected representatives of the people to take a vote on the floor of the United States Congress and say loudly, clearly: Love is love. Right is right. Justice is justice.”

While same-sex marriage was legalised in the US by the Supreme Court in 2015, the Respect for Marriage Act seeks to address fears that the court’s new more-conservative justices could move to reverse the decision and allow individual states to decide on whether or not to recognise same-sex marriages.

“Today is a historic day and a much-needed victory for our community,” commented Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organisation in the US.

“It should be lost on no one that this bill signing comes less than a month after a deadly attack on our community in Colorado Springs, and at a time when the community continues to face ongoing threats of online and offline violence, as well as legislative attacks on our rights. In signing this bill, President Biden has shown that LGBTQ+ peoples’ lives and love are valid and supported.”

According to Gallup, 71% of Americans now support marriage for same-sex couples.

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