Updated Dec 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden signs marriage equality bill into law

President Biden after signing the Respect for Marriage Act in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13.

President Biden after signing the Respect for Marriage Act in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday signed a bill codifying federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage.

Why it matters: The Respect for Marriage Act, which the House passed last week, comes amid heightened concerns about the right to gay marriage following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

  • Thousands of lawmakers and advocates attended the signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.) and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is gay.

Driving the news: Earlier this year, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade, that the court should revisit several other landmark cases — including Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.

  • The new law ensures federal recognition of marriage regardless of sex, race, ethnicity or national origin and requires all states to recognize valid marriages conducted in places where they are legal, Axios' Shawna Chen reports.
  • It also repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, which established a federal definition of marriage as a "legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife," but does not require states to allow same-sex marriage as is held under the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell.

What they're saying: "Today is a good day," Biden said before signing the bill into law. "Today, America takes a vital step toward equality, toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone. Toward creating a nation where decency, dignity, and love are recognized, honored and protected."

  • After Congress passed the law, Biden said: "On this day, Jill and I are thinking of the courageous couples and fiercely committed advocates who have fought for decades to secure nationwide marriage equality at the Supreme Court and in Congress."
  • "While we are one step closer on our long journey to build a more perfect union, we must never stop fighting for full equality for LGBTQI+ Americans and all Americans," he added.

State of play: The House voted 258-169 last week to pass the bill, sending it to Biden's desk for his signature.

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