Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act

President Joe Biden signs the Respect for Marriage Act into law on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Screen capture from C-SPAN.

To the sounds of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) into law on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The act largely codifies marriage equality in the United States. While it doesn’t require states to keep marriage equality legal within their borders, it does require them to recognize marriages from states where it is legal.

The law doesn’t completely protect marriage equality since states could still outlaw it if the Supreme Court overturns past cases. It does codify federal recognition and protection, but unless people have easy access to a state where marriage equality is safe, it doesn’t protect all people.

The U.S. House passed the Senate version of the bill last week.

Joining Biden on stage during the signing on the South Lawn of the White House was his wife Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeig, the highest ranking out LGBTQ member of the administration.

The RMA was passed in reaction to the overturn of Roe v. Wade over the summer. Many in the LGBTQ community were worried that the Supreme Court overturning abortion rights made Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, and Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage, vulnerable.

“I am excited that the administration has made this a priority,” said Nicole Frydman, director of operations at Champaign’s Uniting Pride Center. “I am always interested in celebrating progress. However, I think there is confusion about what this really does. It’s not necessarily the widespread protection that we want and need. But like I often say, we celebrate today and we work more tomorrow.”

“Today, for many couples in this country, fear was lifted, and love was confirmed,” said Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton after the signing. “With the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, we will have a law that protects same-sex and interracial unions. But this action is more than a legal precedent; it affirms the humanity of all people and validates the right of every person to love freely and be protected from gender and racial discrimination.”

Illinois legalized marriage equality in 2013 with then Gov. Pat Quinn signing a law passed by the General Assembly.

“Today, as it always does, love wins,” said GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The new law will protect LGBTQ Americans and couples of different races, and their families, recognizing that they and their marriages are as loving and worthy of recognition as any other couple.”

There were those who were less than happy about it. Far-right U.S. Rep. Mary Miller (R-Oakland) called the law the “Anti-Marriage Act” in a tweet, tagging Tony Perkins and his Family Research Council (FRC).

The FRC has been designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.