(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday afternoon will sign legislation protecting same-sex and interracial marriage.
Biden is hosting a celebration starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on the White House South Lawn with lawmakers and Cabinet members as the Respect for Marriage Act becomes law.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that Biden “will be joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers as well as advocates and plaintiffs in marriage equality cases across the country.”
“There will be musical guests and performances,” Jean-Pierre said, adding that the president “will also note that there is much more work to be done” and he will repeat his call to pass federal legislation known as the Equality Act to expand civil rights protections for LGBTQ people.
The historic marriage bill passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress after months of negotiation, particularly over provisions related to religion.
The House voted last week 258-169 to send the bill to Biden’s desk after the Senate passed it 61-36. A minority of Republicans joined Democrats in both votes.
Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator, helped guide the legislation through Congress. Baldwin has said the bill “will protect the hard-fought progress we’ve made on marriage equality.”
It became a priority for Democrats after the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which five conservative justices ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade and the national guarantee to abortion access.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, said he believed the court should reconsider other precedents based on similar legal doctrine, including 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges — which found that the 14th Amendment requires all states to license same-sex marriages.
The Respect for Marriage Act doesn’t include Obergefell’s national requirement but will mandate that individual states recognize same-sex and interracial marriages that were lawfully performed in another state.
Some Republicans who voted for it in Congress noted additional language around protecting religious groups who still object to same-sex marriage.
Critics like Utah Sen. Mike Lee said it didn’t go far enough, however.
Biden celebrated the Respect for Marriage Act’s passage last week, saying then that it will “give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples who are now guaranteed the rights and protections to which they and their children are entitled.”
“After the uncertainty caused by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Congress has restored a measure of security to millions of marriages and families,” he said in a statement. “They have also provided hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognize and respect the families they build.”
Biden has long been outspoken on the issue. In 2012, he famously preempted then-President Barack Obama in publicly supporting same-sex marriage.
“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said during an interview at the time on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love?” Biden said then. “And that’s what people are finding out, what all marriages at their root are about.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was emotional as the bill was passed in the House on Thursday. Pelosi, stepping down from her leadership role in the new Congress, said she was happy that this bill was one of the last she was signing as the top House Democrat.
“At last, we have history in the making,” she said at the bill enrollment ceremony last week. “But not only are we on the right side of history, we’re on the right side of the future, expanding freedom in America.”
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