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US President Joe Biden signed a bill on Tuesday codifying federal protections for same-sex marriage. The move came days after the Respect for Marriage Act went through both houses of the US Congress.
The legislation, among other things, overturns the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) while requiring states to recognize any valid marriage performed in other states.
The measure was introduced this summer after a conservative Supreme Court justice signaled that rulings on marriage equality and contraception should be reconsidered.
The Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404) is being hailed as a landmark United States federal law, passed by the 117th United States Congress and now signed by Biden.
It repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), requires the US federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial marriages in the United States, and protects religious liberty.
Its first version in 2009 was supported by then-former Republican US Representative Bob Barr, the original sponsor of DOMA, and former President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA in 1996.
The administration of President Barack Obama also supported RFMA. Iterations of the proposal were put forth in the 111th, 112th, 113th, 114th, and 117th Congresses.
Until 1996, the federal government of the United States customarily recognized marriages conducted legally in any state for the purpose of federal legislation.
Following an unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii, the United States Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, one section of which forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
The Guardian newspaper reported: “The signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn was a celebration, with guests waving rainbow flags and performances by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC, Sam Smith and Cyndi Lauper.”
It added, “The ceremony was personal for many in attendance. The transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay cabinet member, was there. Also present was Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, a lead sponsor of the bill and the first openly gay member of that chamber.”
“The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said he was wearing the same purple tie he wore to his daughter’s wedding. Schumer’s daughter and her wife are expecting their first child next year.”
“There was sustained applause for the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. The long-serving congresswoman from San Francisco, a prominent champion of LGBTQ+ rights, praised the crowd of advocates and activists for their “patriotism” and “impatience”.”
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