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President Biden Gifts Marriage Equality Pen to Vice President Harris

Respect for Marriage Act Pen

The president thanked Vice President Kamala Harris for her support of the LGBTQ+ community by gifting her the pen with which he signed the landmark Respect for Marriage Act into law.

Of the more than 5,300 assembled guests and officials at the White House bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, one person, the vice president, received a special memento.

After signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law, President Joe Biden passed along the pen with which he signed the legislation and handed it to Vice President Kamala Harris. The gesture is a significant acknowledgment by Biden, who was ahead on the marriage equality issue 10 years ago, that Harris has stood firmly with the LGBTQ+ community her entire career.

Presidents often sign historic legislation with several pens, which they hand out as gifts to those integral to the bill's passage. Biden has more often than not used only one pen at signing ceremonies.

Harris stood behind the president, alongside First Lady Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"Is everybody here?" Biden could be heard asking as invited dignitaries surrounded the desk where he was signing the legislation.

Then, Biden looked at the bill, smiled, and said, "Here we go," as he began signing the document.

With the stroke of his pen, the bill became a law, and as Lady Gaga's hit "Born This Way" began to play, the president looked up at Harris, smiled and nodded, and handed her the only pen he used.

The legislation codifies marriage equality into federal law. It also protects interracial marriage -- Harris and Emhoff are in one.

Harris, who had been smiling throughout the event, seemed genuinely shocked and news photographers memorialized the moment.

She is a known advocate for civil and human rights, including the rights of LGBTQ+ people. While serving as San Francisco District Attorney, she led the first LGBTQ+ hate crime unit in the country, opposed the "gay and transgender panic defense," and officiated same-sex marriages in San Francisco City Hall in 2004.

As the state's attorney general, Harris helped restore marriage equality in California by not defending Proposition 8, a ballot measure that revoked equal marriage rights following the California Supreme Court's overturn of the state's original same-sex marriage ban in 2008. In the brief window between the ruling and Prop. 8's passage, she officiated same-sex weddings. She did so again in 2013, after court rulings invalidated Prop. 8 for good.

As senator, Harris supported LGBTQ+ equality efforts. In addition to authoring legislation that would have safeguarded federal protections for LGBTQ+ people and increased access to HIV-prevention drugs, she cosponsored legislation that sought to ensure equal treatment for LGBTQ+ people, including the Equality Act.

A White House official confirmed to The Advocate that Harris would keep the pen.

Watch the White House's South Lawn signing ceremony below.

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