Biden Signs Respect for Marriage Act, Providing Federal Protections for Same-Sex and Interracial Marriages

Aparna Shrivastava, right, takes a photo with her partner Shelby Teeter after President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Isabel Soisson

December 14, 2022

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, a key step in protecting marriages between same-sex and interracial couples at the federal level.

The Senate voted to pass the bill on Nov. 30, and the House passed it on Dec. 8, with most Democrats voting for the bill and most Republicans against it.

“This law and the love it defends strike a blow against hate in all its forms,” Biden said on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday. “And that’s why this law matters to every single American.”

“Marriage is a simple proposition. Who do you love? And will you be loyal to that person you love?” Biden continued. “It’s not more complicated than that.”

The bill’s signing comes as Democrats and LGBTQ advocates have expressed growing concern over the possibility of the landmark 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges—which legalized gay marriage nationwidebeing overturned following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

While the Respect for Marriage Act does not codify Obergefell or require states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, it does require states that ban same-sex marriages to recognize these marriages as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. This would offer some protections to same-sex couples in the event that Obergefell is ever overturned and state-level bans are allowed to go into place.

The law also formally repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton; this law denied same-sex couples federal benefits and permitted states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The Respect for Marriage Act also protects interracial marriages by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

“The Respect for Marriage Act is about love, it’s about families, and it’s about doing the right thing,” said Brian K. Bond, executive director of PFLAG National, an LGBTQ advocacy group. “The more than 1,100 rights the Respect for Marriage Act protects for all married couples is more progress toward ensuring that LGBTQ people and their families are protected in every aspect of life.”

The author of the bill, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), is the first openly gay American elected to the Senate. She recently revised the bill to garner some Republican support, adding language that gives exemptions to religious organizations and faith-based nonprofits.

“We’re making a really positive difference in people’s lives by creating the certainty that their ability to protect their families will be lasting,” Baldwin told NBC News.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said that the bill is a “victory for LGBTQ couples and couples of different races, and a bipartisan recognition that LGBTQ families are accepted, supported, and worthy of the same protections as any other.”

“This legislation will safeguard much-needed protections for millions of couples who are baselessly vulnerable in today’s hostile political climate at the state level and in the courts,” she went on. “It’s long past time for politicians to catch up to the supermajority of Americans of every party who support shared values of equal treatment, and our right to be free from discrimination and to have the same chances to belong, contribute, and succeed in our communities and in our country.”

Ellis also called on Congress to “use this momentum to keep expanding LGBTQ protections and freedoms.”


  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.



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