WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands turned out on a chilly Tuesday afternoon to watch President Joe Biden sign gay marriage legislation. in law, a joyous ceremony modified by the backdrop of an ongoing conservative reaction to gender issues.
“This law and the love it stands for will blast hate in all its forms,” Biden said on the South Lawn of the White House. “And that’s why this legislation matters to every single American.”
Singers Sam Smith and Cyndi Lauper performed. Vice President Kamala Harris recalled officiating at a lesbian wedding in San Francisco. And the White House played a recording of Biden’s television interview from a decade ago, when he caused a political stir by unexpectedly revealing his support for gay marriage. Biden was vice president at the time, and President Barack Obama had not yet endorsed the idea.
“I’m in trouble,” Biden joked at the time. Three days later, Obama himself publicly endorsed gay marriage.
Lawmakers from both parties attended Tuesday’s ceremony, reflecting growing acceptance of same-sex unions, once among the most contentious issues in the country.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., wore the same purple tie to the ceremony that he wore to his daughter Alison’s wedding. He and his wife are expecting their first child in the spring.
“Thanks to the millions out there who have spent years working for change, and thanks to the hard work of my colleagues, my grandchildren will live in a world where their mothers’ marriages are respected and honored,” she said. .
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the crowd that “only maneuvering has gotten us this far,” and she thanked activists who are adding strength to “your patience, your perseverance and your patriotism.”
Despite Tuesday’s excitement, there was concern about the national spread of conservative policies on gender issues at the state level.
Biden criticized “senseless, cynical laws introduced in states that target transgender children, terrorize families, and undermine doctors who give children the care they need.”
“Racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, they’re all connected,” Biden said. “But the antidote to hate is love.”
Among those in attendance were 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.
“It’s not lost on me that our struggle for freedom is far from over,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “But it’s a big step forward, and we need to celebrate the successes we’ve achieved and use that to fuel the future of the fight.”
Robinson attended the ceremony with his wife and 1-year-old son.
“Our kids are watching this moment,” he said. “It’s very special to have them here and show them that we’re on the right side of history.”
The new law aims to protect gay marriages if the US Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that limits same-sex unions nationwide. The new law also protects interracial marriage. In 1967, the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia overturned laws in 16 states that prohibited interracial marriage.
The signing marks the culmination of a month-long effort by the two parties which led to 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, Justice Clarence Thomas proposed revisiting other decisions, including the legalization of gay marriage, raising fears that more rights could be endangered by the court’s conservative majority. Thomas did not identify interracial marriage among the other cases he said should be reconsidered.
Lawmakers worked out a compromise intended to assuage conservative concerns about religious freedom, such as ensuring that churches can still refuse to perform gay marriages.
In addition, states would not be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if the court overturned its 2015 ruling. But they would be required to recognize marriages performed 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.
Tuesday’s ceremony marked another chapter in Biden’s legacy on gay rights, which included his surprise endorsement of marriage equality in 2012.
“What it’s all about is a simple proposition: Who do you love?” Biden then said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s when people find out what marriage is all about at its root.”
A Gallup poll showed only 27% of US adults supported same-sex unions in 1996, when President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which said the federal government would only recognize those heterosexual marriage. Biden voted for the law.
At the time of Biden’s 2012 interview, gay marriage remained controversial, but support had expanded among about half of US adults, according to Gallup. Earlier this year, 71% said same-sex unions should be recognized by law.
Biden has pushed to expand LGBT rights since taking office. He reversed President Donald Trump’s efforts to strip transgender people of anti-discrimination protections. His administration included the first openly gay Cabinet memberTransportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and the first transgender to receive Senate confirmationAssistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine.
Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.