Biden signs bill protecting same-sex marriage rights

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Tuesday signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, mandating federal recognition of same-sex marriages and limiting his own personal development toward homosexual rights recognition over a four-decade political career.

In a lavish signing ceremony on the South Lawn, complete with musical performances by Cyndi Lauper and Sam Smith, Mr. Biden told thousands of supporters and lawmakers that the new law represented a rare moment of bipartisanship as Democrats and Republicans came together.

“My fellow Americans, the road to this moment has been a long one, but those who believe in equality and justice have never given up,” Mr. Biden told the crowd, which White House officials later said numbered 5,300 people before he signed the law to loud rejoicing. He added: “We did it. We will continue work in advance. I promise you.”

The landmark law, passed by a bipartisan coalition in Congress, officially erases the Defense of Marriage Act, which a quarter-century ago officially defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The new law prohibits states from denying the validity of out-of-state marriages based on gender, race or ethnicity.

The gathering, on a clear December afternoon against a backdrop of the White House, was particularly significant for Democratic lawmakers, for whom it could be their last major bill signing of their term as Republican control of the House begins next month.

For Mr. Biden, who voted as a senator in 1996 for the Defense of Marriage Act and faltered in allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military, the signing ceremony was an indication of how much the president has changed when it comes to stand up for LGBTQ equality.

It is also another example of how Mr. Biden’s gradual transformation as a broader politician has been consistent with the development of his own party since he came into public life as a junior senator on January 3, 1973.

His views on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and prison reform — which once placed him on the more conservative side of his party’s ideological spectrum — are now more aligned with positions that have woken up Democrats and even many Republicans in recent years.

The country continues to have deep ideological rifts. But in some areas there are now new and different majorities expressing support for societal and political norms that were very different a generation ago and have changed over time much like the President has.

In many ways its bow is the bow of the country.

Mr. Biden, 80, grew up during a time when much of the country was less tolerant of people’s sexual orientation. His Senate policy decisions reflected those times, often siding with those who proposed restrictions or limits on gay men and lesbians. He supported a measure restricting teaching about homosexuality in schools, one of many defeats for the equality movement.

During his 2008 vice presidential debate with Sarah Palin, Mr. Biden said he was opposed to “redefining what constitutes marriage from a civilian side.” But people close to Mr. Biden said he was open-minded and a keen observer of the way society was changing around him — and was slowly changing his positions.

“I respect and appreciate that he is someone who can admit that his views have been outdated in the past and that he has evolved on this issue and is now an outspoken advocate and advocate,” said Kelley Robinson, president of Human Rights Campaign. a gay rights organization in Washington. “It’s a question of politics and politics to catch up where people are already.”

Mr. Biden also now strongly supports women’s rights to choose to have an abortion, despite having reservations early in his career. A practicing Catholic, the president was once an outspoken critic of abortion rights but later became a silent – if uncomfortable – defender of those rights in the Senate.

Since the Supreme Court ruling in June to end constitutional abortion rights, Mr. Biden has vehemently condemned the decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case and has repeatedly called for legislation that breaks the 50-year-old precedent with legal protections for the Women’s right to abortion.

Mr. Biden has also changed his views on criminal sentencing, an issue that has increasingly brought Democrats and Republicans together in recent years. In 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed the First Step Act, a bipartisan compromise to reform prison laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

As a young senator, Mr. Biden repeatedly backed tough crime-fighting legislation, culminating in his support for the 1994 crime bill, which many in his party now blame for an era of mass incarceration, particularly of minorities. In a speech at the time, Mr. Biden boasted that his view of crime was to “lock up the SOBs.”

That is no longer his view. As a candidate, he promised to reverse provisions of the 1994 law. And as president, he has used the power of grace to free people jailed for decades for petty crimes. In October, Mr. Biden issued a blanket pardon for anyone convicted of the federal crime of simple possession of marijuana. He has encouraged governors to lobby for state marijuana laws.

But neither theme represents Mr. Biden’s tendency to adapt to societal and political changes and gay marriage. Polls show a sea change in public opinion across the political spectrum over the past decade, with nearly 70 percent of Americans now saying they support the right of same-sex couples to marry, with all the rights afforded to heterosexual couples by law.

The president unequivocally backed the law he signed into law Tuesday, saying earlier this year he is confident that “Republicans and Democrats can work together to secure the fundamental right of Americans to marry the person they love.”

But it’s also a sign of lingering fears that newfound gay rights may be fragile. The push for the law to pass was fueled in part by the Supreme Court opinion repealing abortion rights, in which Justice Clarence Thomas raised the possibility of applying the same logic to decisions protecting marriage equality and the right to contraception.

Opponents of the law argued that it would undermine family values ​​in the United States and restrict religious freedom for people who don’t believe same-sex marriage is moral.

Supporters of the new law insisted that Congress must be proactive to ensure a future Supreme Court ruling would not invalidate same-sex marriages across the country. In 2015, the court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must recognize same-sex marriages as marriages between men and women.

The widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage, once a fiercely divisive political issue, was the backdrop to a rare show of bipartisanship in Congress, in which 61 senators and 258 members of the House of Representatives voted to pass the Respect for Marriage Act at Mr. Biden’s desk send his signature.

When this happened, there was no doubt that the President would sign it. As the 2020 presidential candidate, he was an ardent supporter of gay rights and same-sex marriage. He has appointed dozens of LGBTQ officers to posts in his administration, including Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation. Some gay rights leaders have hailed him as the most equality-friendly president ever.

As vice president, Mr. Biden publicly announced his support for same-sex marriage before his boss, President Barack Obama, and upended careful plans for the announcement of Mr. Obama’s re-election. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2012, Mr. Biden said, “I’m absolutely comfortable with the fact that men who marry men, women who marry women, and straight men and women who marry each other, entitled to exactly the same rights. all civil rights.”

It was a significant moment, especially for one of the country’s most prominent Catholic politicians. Tuesday’s signing of the marriage law is the latest evidence that any concerns Mr. Biden had earlier in his career have all but evaporated.

“On this day, Jill and I remember the brave couples and doggedly dedicated attorneys who fought for decades in the Supreme Court and in Congress to secure marriage equality nationwide,” Mr. Biden said in a statement following the passage of House last Week. “We must never stop fighting for full equality for LGBTQI+ Americans and all Americans.” Biden signs bill protecting same-sex marriage rights

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