President Joe Biden is set to sign legislation to codify federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages in a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are also expected to attend.
The legislation, passed by Congress last week, was drafted by a bipartisan group led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. It will ensure that the federal government recognizes marriages and guarantee full benefits “regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” The bill will not, however, require states to issue marriage licenses contrary to state laws.
Democrats unanimously voted to support the bill, while most Republicans in both chambers opposed it. The bill was revised by Baldwin in an effort to gain some Republican votes, with language saying that religious organizations would not be required to perform same-sex marriages and that the federal government wouldn’t be required to protect polygamous marriages.
An earlier version of the bill was passed by the House earlier this year after Democratic leaders expressed concern that the Supreme Court could follow its June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade with a ruling that rescinds the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Democrats pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe, in which he called on the conservative majority court to also revisit landmark decisions that legalized the right to contraception and same-sex marriage.
The legislation comes as state lawmakers have proposed a record number of bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ people in recent years. It also comes amid widespread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric led by right-wingers and a string of attacks on the community, including the deadly shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last month.
Biden’s signing of the legislation comes a decade after he came out in public support of same-sex marriage, marking a change for the former senator who had previously voted to block federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
“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 during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2012. “And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”
Sahil Kapur and Kyle Stewart contributed.