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Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023

Biden signs bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage months after Supreme Court raised doubts about marriage and contraception decisions

Biden signs bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage months after Supreme Court raised doubts about marriage and contraception decisions

After months of debate and some unlikely GOP support, Biden signed a bill to protect relationships that the Dobbs decision had thrown into question.
President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law on Tuesday, capping off a months-long debate that began after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

"Today's a good day," said Biden at a ceremony on the South Lawn that was also attended by singer and LGBT activist Cyndi Lauper and musical artist Sam Smith. "A day America takes a vital step toward equality. Toward liberty and justice. Not just for some, but for everyone."

The new law, designed to protect same-sex and interracial marriage, formally repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage at the federal level as being solely between a man and a woman. It will also require states to recognize marriages performed in other states.

While the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013 and required states to perform same-sex marriages with its Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015, those rulings and others were thrown into question this year when a majority composed of conservative justices overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked the constitutional right to an abortion.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion to the June ruling that other precedents, including the Obergefell decision finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, should be "reconsidered" as well.

Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in response, and were joined in supporting the legislation by an unprecedented number of Republicans, including 47 House Republicans who supported the initial version of the bill in July and 12 Republican senators who supported an amended version of the bill in December.

Biden addressed Thomas' June opinion during his address on Tuesday at the White House. 

"Congress is acting because an extreme Supreme Court has stripped away the right important to millions of Americans that existed for half a century," he said, adding that Thomas "thinks we should reconsider" constitutional rights to marriage and contraception. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a previously outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, notably never spoke out against the bill.

Nonetheless, the bill garnered eight fewer Republican votes when a version amended to protect religious liberties passed the House again in December.
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