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Biden will sign same-sex marriage bill, 10 years after his famous response to the Sunday show on the issue


On a Sunday morning in May 2012, Vice President Joe Biden shocked the country with an unexpected statement uttered in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: He came out in public for the first time in favor of same-sex marriage. .

“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the exact same rights, all civil rights, all civil liberties,” Biden said when asked if he was comfortable with same-sex marriage.

Those words — which Biden insisted the following years were unplanned for — marked a stunning personal evolution for the longtime Washington creature, who as a senator had voted to block federal recognition. same-sex marriages and had previously insisted that marriage should only take place between a man and a woman. The interview also proved to be a turning point in modern American politics, prompting then-President Barack Obama to adopt the same position several days later and allow other national leaders to follow suit.

This week, just over 10 years after that famous TV moment, Biden marks another milestone as a staunch protector of LGBTQ rights. Now halfway through his first term as president, Biden will on Tuesday sign a bill passed by Congress last week that mandates federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages.

The White House plans to mark the occasion with a ceremony built on a scale it deems appropriate at this time, with one official saying in the days leading up to Tuesday that he simply planned to “go all out.”

Among the guests invited to the signing of the bill at the White House are prominent members of the LGBTQ community and activists. They include, according to a White House official, Judy Kasen-Windsor, widow of gay rights activist Edie Windsor; Matthew Haynes, co-owner of Club Q, the Colorado Springs LGBTQ club where a gunman killed five people in a mass shooting last month; Club Q shooting survivors James Slaugh and Michael Anderson; and a number of plaintiffs in cases that culminated in the landmark civil rights case Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples can marry nationwide.

Officials also said Biden’s 2012 “Meet the Press” response — and the cultural transformation it helped usher in around the national conversation on same-sex marriage — was to be an important theme at the signing event. Tuesday’s bill, possibly including in the president’s own remarks.

“That single interview was a transformative moment in Biden’s development as a politician. In the Senate, as a presidential candidate and as a vice president, he has always been very cautious on LGBT issues, fearful of taking a position that opponents could use to portray him as a left winger,” Sasha Issenberg , author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Fight Against Same-Sex Marriage,” told CNN. “But the reception of what he said on ‘Meet the Press’ has been universal praise within his party, particularly from LGBT advocates and donors who were previously skeptical of him.”

Enjoying the hero treatment of liberal activists, Biden would continue to aggressively associate with LGBT causes in years to come, and in particular was “unusually bold” on transgender rights, Issenberg said.

The passage of same-sex marriage legislation in Congress last week also marked the culmination of a year that produced a notable number of bipartisan packages. The bill passed the House with 39 Republicans joining Democrats, after passing the Senate with 12 Republican senators.

Such a bill seemed unlikely to many in Washington not too long ago, even as public opinion on same-sex marriage has steadily shifted over the years: 68% of Americans support marriage. gay sex in 2021, up 14 percentage points from 2014, according to polls from the nonprofit, nonpartisan public Religious Research Institute.

But the public rally and push to pass federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage intensified this year after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, sparking new fears that the nation’s highest court will also reconsider other existing rights regarding marriage equality.

On the day the landmark Supreme Court decision was released in June, Biden warned that Justice Clarence Thomas “explicitly called for reconsideration of the right to marriage equality, the right of couples to make choices about contraception. This is an extreme and dangerous path down which the Court is now taking us.

He would go on to give similar warnings on the campaign trail leading up to the midterm elections: “We want to make it clear: It’s not just about Roe and choice. It’s about – it’s about marriage – same-sex marriage. It’s about birth control. It’s a whole host of things that are on the docket,” he said at a Democratic National Committee reception in August.

Democratic philanthropist and donor David Bohnett, who has been an outspoken gay and transgender rights activist and longtime Biden supporter, told CNN that Tuesday’s bill signing could not come at a time. more crucial.

“[Biden] has demonstrated decades of support for lesbian and gay civil rights, and Tuesday’s signing of the law is a reaffirmation of that during this time when rights are under attack,” Bohnett said. “I think we are here in response to the hateful and discriminatory actions and tactics of so many on the right and so many people who want to dismantle the rights we have fought so hard for for so long.”

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