Biden to sign same-sex marriage bill at White House ceremony

U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order during an event celebrating Pride Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 15.Patrick Semansky/AP

Reflecting growing acceptance of same-sex unions, President Joe Biden invited thousands to celebrate at the White House on Tuesday as he signed same-sex marriage legislation in front of bipartisan crowds.

Lawmakers from both parties will be in attendance, as will first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. The White House promised a musical performance but tried to keep the headlines in suspense.

The triumphant mood will be played out against the backdrop of a right-wing backlash against gender issues that has alarmed gay and trans people and their advocates.

Among the attendees will be the owner of Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado where five people were killed in a shooting last month and two survivors. The suspect has been charged with a hate crime.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit that originally helped secure same-sex marriage rights nationwide are also expected to attend, according to the White House.

The new law aims to protect same-sex marriage if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex unions nationwide. The new law also protects interracial marriages. In 1967, the Supreme Court struck down 16 state laws prohibiting interracial marriage in Love v. Virginia.

“Congress has restored a level of safety to millions of marriages and families,” Biden said in a statement when the legislation passed last week. “They also offer hope and dignity to millions of young people across the country who grow up knowing their governments will recognize and respect the families they have created.”

The signing would mark the culmination of months of bipartisan efforts sparked by the Supreme Court’s June overturning of Roe v. Wade, which made abortion available nationwide.

In a unanimous opinion overturning Roe’s case, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that other decisions, including legalizing same-sex marriage, be revisited, raising concerns that more civil rights could be threatened by the court’s conservative majority.

Lawmakers crafted a compromise aimed at assuaging conservative concerns about religious liberty, such as ensuring that churches can still refuse to hold 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 held elsewhere in the country.

A majority of Republicans in Congress still voted against the legislation. However, enough people supported it to sidestep the Senate filibuster and ensure its passage.

“Together we have shown that it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to come together to defend our most fundamental rights,” Biden said.

Tuesday’s ceremony will mark a new chapter in Biden’s legacy on gay rights.

In 2012, when he was vice president, he memorably — and unexpectedly — supported same-sex unions in a television interview. A few days later, President Barack Obama announced that he, too, supports same-sex marriage.

Attendees will be given a card commemorating Biden’s comments in the 2012 interview.

“It’s all about one simple proposition: Who do you love?” Biden said a decade ago on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Whom do you love, and will you be faithful to the one you love? That’s where all the marriages people find come from.”

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 Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levin, the first transgender person to be Senate-confirmed.

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