President Biden signs into law federal protection for same-sex and interracial marriage

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By AP with Euronews
President Joe Biden speaks during a bill signing ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks during a bill signing ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

President Joe Biden signed gay marriage legislation into law Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, a ceremony that reflected the growing acceptance of same-sex unions.

"Today's a good day, a day America takes a vital step toward equality, toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone, everyone toward creating a nation where decency, dignity and love are recognised, honoured and protected," Biden declared on the South Lawn of the White House.

Lawmakers from both parties were there, as well as first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Singers Sam Smith and Cyndi Lauper performed.

"This law and the love it defends strike a blow against hate in all its forms," Biden said. "And that's why this law matters to every single American."

The triumphant mood played out against the backdrop of a right-wing backlash over gender issues, which has alarmed gay and transgender people and their advocates.

"Racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, they're all connected," Biden said. "But the antidote to hate is love."

Among the attendees were the owner of Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado where five people were killed in a shooting last month, and two survivors of the attack. The suspect has been charged with hate crimes.

Plaintiffs from lawsuits that originally helped secure the nationwide right to gay marriage were also there.

The new law is intended to safeguard gay marriages if the US Supreme Court ever reverses Obergefell v. Hodges, its 2015 decision legalising same-sex unions nationwide.

The new law also protects interracial marriages. In 1967, the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down laws in 16 states barring interracial marriage.

The signing marks the culmination of a monthslong bipartisan effort sparked by the Supreme Court's decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that made abortion available across the country.

In a concurring opinion in the case that overturned Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested revisiting other decisions, including the legalisation of gay marriage, generating fear that more civil rights could be imperilled by the court's conservative majority. Thomas did not include interracial marriage with other cases he said should be reconsidered.

Lawmakers crafted a compromise that was intended to assuage conservative concerns about religious liberty, such as ensuring churches could still refuse to perform gay marriages.

In addition, states will not be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But they will be required to recognize marriages conducted elsewhere in the country.

A majority of Republicans in Congress still voted against the legislation. However, enough supported it to sidestep a filibuster in the Senate and ensure its passage.