Biden Signs Respect for Marriage Act Into Law

President Joe Biden on Dec. 13 signed a bill declaring marriage can be between people of the same sex.

“Today is a good day. Today America takes a final step toward equality, toward liberty and justice—not just for some, but for everyone,” Biden said outside the White House in Washington before signing the bill. “Toward creating a nation where decency, dignity, and love are recognized, honored, and protected.”

The bill, H.R. 8404, repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. It was signed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and broadly supported by both parties.

Since then, most Democrats and some Republicans have become supportive of gay marriage, and lawmakers in both parties helped pass the new law.

H.R. 8404, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, codifies a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, that found the Defense of Marriage Act’s provision on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Obergefell forced states to grant marriage licenses to gay couples.

Supporters said the law was needed after the nation’s top court in June struck down Roe v. Wade, its 1973 decision that concluded access to abortion was protected under the constitution.

The majority in June said its decision did not imperil the ruling on marriage or any other precedent that does not relate to abortion. Justice Clarence Thomas, though, in a concurring opinion said that the court should “reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents,” including Obergefell. Thomas did not mention the court’s 1967 ruling that found laws banning interracial marriage unlawful, but protection of interracial marriage was included in the new bill.

Biden said deciding whom to marry was “one of the most profound decisions” a person can make and that he sees it as a matter of who a person loves and will be loyal to. “The law recognizes that everyone should have the right to answer those questions for themselves without government interference,” he said.

The Senate passed the legislation in a 61–36 vote on Nov. 29. The House of Representatives passed the bill in a 258–169 vote on Dec. 8.

Biden was joined for the bill signing by a crowd that included Matthew Haynes, the owner of the Colorado club where a man opened fire and killed five in November; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); and singer Cyndi Lauper.

Epoch Times Photo
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre looks on as singer Cyndi Lauper speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington on Dec. 13, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Warning of Threat to Religious Liberty

Some say the new law will endanger religious liberty.

“It’s giving broad new power to the federal government to be able to go after religious organizations and people of faith that hold to the view that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Matt Sharp, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, told NTD. “You can see this playing out with a faith-based adoption provider that believes kids deserve a home with a married mother and father being punished by the government because of its beliefs.”

The bill also opens the door to lawsuits against groups over traditional views of marriage, critics say.

While the law contains some legal protections, such as stating a pastor does not have to perform a same-sex marriage, that same pastor could be forced to let a gay couple marry at his church, Emma Waters, a research associate of the Heritage Foundation’s Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family told The Epoch Times.

Those concerns prompted a number of Republicans to change their votes between the first House passage and the second vote, which was for a version amended by the Senate. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), who voted no to the final version, said that it does not include “full protections for churches and Americans with sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Supporters of the law say it has adequate safeguards.

“This commonsense legislation provides certainty to millions of loving couples in same-sex and interracial marriages, who will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages. At the same time, our legislation fully respects and protects religious liberty and diverse beliefs about marriage,” Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said in a joint statement.

Biden did not address the concerns.

Jackson Elliott contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber

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Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.

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