During Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, first lady Jill Biden’s guests included members of the LGBTQ+ community that blazed the trail for marriage equality long before it became the law of the land.
From the first lady’s box, Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith, who sued Massachusetts in 2001 for the right to marry, attended the event.
As a result of the Nortonsmiths' lawsuit — Goodridge v. MA Dept. of Public Health — Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. The couple wed on May 17, 2004, the day the state enacted marriage equality.
During the White House signing ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act in December, the Nortonsmiths spoke on the South Lawn.
During her remarks, Heidi Nortonsmith said, “It takes the efforts of many to bend the arc of history toward justice. Even now, there are so many places where people in our community are under attack.”
President Biden highlighted the LGBTQ+ community twice in his speech before the joint session of Congress.
First, listing his accomplishments, Biden included a measure to support LGBTQ+ Americans.
“I signed over 300 bipartisan laws since becoming president. From reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act to the Electoral Count Reform Act, to the Respect for Marriage Act that protects the right to marry the person you love,” he said.
After pledging to veto any ban on abortion if Republicans were to pass one, the president turned to inclusion.
“Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity,” Biden said, prompting Vice President Harris and Arizona independent Sen. Krysten Sinema, who is bisexual, and other lawmakers to rise to their feet.
Also in attendance were the parents of Tyre Nichols, who was murdered in Memphis by a mob of police officers in January, and Brandon Tsay, who saved countless people by disarming a gunman on a mass shooting rampage at a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, Calfornia several weeks ago.
U2 singer and philanthropist Bono attended, as did Paul Pelosi, husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He survived a violent attack in October at the couple’s California home.