President Joe Biden invites thousands to celebrate at the White House on Tuesday as he signs same-sex marriage legislation into law before a bipartisan crowd that reflects growing acceptance of same-sex unions.
Lawmakers from both parties will be there, as will First Lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. The White House promised musical performances but tried to maintain suspense over the headliners.
The triumphant mood will play out against the backdrop of a right-wing backlash on gender issues, which has alarmed gay and transgender people and their advocates.
Attendees will include the owner of Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado where five people were killed in a shooting last month, and two survivors of the attack. The suspect has been charged with hate crimes.
Plaintiffs from the lawsuits that initially helped secure the nation’s right to same-sex marriage should also be there, the White House says.
The new law aims to protect same-sex marriages if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, his 2015 decision legalizing same-sex unions nationwide. The new law also protects interracial marriages. In 1967, the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down laws in 16 states banning interracial marriage.
“Congress has reinstated a measure of safety for millions of marriages and families,” Biden said in a statement as the legislation passed last week. “They have also given hope and dignity to millions of young people across the country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognize and respect the families they are building.
The signing will mark the culmination of a months-long bipartisan effort sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion available nationwide.
In a concurring opinion in the case that overturned Roe, Judge Clarence Thomas suggested reviewing other decisions, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, raising fears that more civil rights could be jeopardized by the conservative majority of the court.
Lawmakers have crafted a compromise meant to assuage conservative concerns about religious freedom, such as ensuring churches can still refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
Additionally, states will not be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But they will be required to recognize marriages celebrated elsewhere in the country.
A majority of Republicans in Congress still voted against the legislation. However, enough people supported it to avoid a filibuster in the Senate and ensure its passage.
“Together, we have shown that it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to come together to protect our most basic rights,” Biden said.
Tuesday’s ceremony will mark another chapter in Biden’s legacy on gay rights.
Memorably — and unexpectedly — he endorsed same-sex unions during a 2012 TV interview when he was vice president. A few days later, President Barack Obama announced that he also supported same-sex marriage.
Attendees will receive a card commemorating Biden’s comments during his 2012 interview.
“What it is about is a simple proposition: who do you love? Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” a decade ago. “Who do you love and will you be true to the person you love? And that’s what people find out, that’s what all marriages are at their root.”
Since becoming president, Biden has reversed President Donald Trump’s efforts to strip transgender people of anti-discrimination protections. His administration includes the first openly gay cabinet member, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and the first transgender person to receive Senate confirmation, Deputy Health Secretary Rachel Levine.
The Independent Gt