President Joe Biden signed into law Tuesday landmark new federal protections for same-sex and interracial couples, capping both a personal and national evolution on an issue that’s enjoyed growing acceptance over the past decade.
Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act before thousands of invited guests on the South Lawn at an event the White House said reflected the importance of the moment.
For Biden, Tuesday’s event bookended a moment a decade ago that helped spark a national political transformation on the issue. When he was serving a vice president, Biden shocked the country with an unexpected declaration delivered in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: He came out in public support of same-sex marriage for the first time.
“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 same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said when asked whether he was comfortable with same-sex marriage.
Basking in the hero-treatment from liberal activists, Biden would go on to aggressively associate himself with LGBT causes in the years to come, and has in particularly been “unusually bold” when it comes to transgender rights, Issenberg said.
Philanthropist and Democratic donor David Bohnett, who has been an outspoken gay- and transgender-rights activist and longtime supporter of Biden, told CNN that Tuesday’s bill signing could not come at a more crucial moment.
“[Biden] has demonstrated his support for decades for lesbian and gay civil rights, and Tuesday’s signing into law is a reaffirmation of that during this time when rights are under assault,” Bohnett said. “I think we’re here in response to the hateful and discriminatory actions and tactics by so many in the right-wing and so many that want to dismantle the rights that we fought so hard for for a long time.”