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Marriage Bill a Win, But Work Not Done: HRC President Says

Tracy Gilchrist and Kelley Robinson
From left: Tracy Gilchrist and Kelley Robinson

The Respect for Marriage Act passed because we changed hearts and minds, but anti-LGBTQ+ attacks will continue, says HRC's Kelley Robinson.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which President Joe Biden is scheduled to sign into law Tuesday, is a great win that's happened because our community has changed hearts and minds, says Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

But much remains to be done, she says, as anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will continue to be introduced around the nation.

Robinson spoke with The Advocate's Tracy E. Gilchrist shortly after the U.S. Senate passed the bill. The House of Representatives later approved the Senate's version -- the Senate had amended the bill after an earlier House vote -- and sent it to President Biden. The legislation will protect the marriages of same-sex and interracial couples even if the Supreme Court reverses its decisions that assured marriage equality for those couples.

"I have to say, this is a win," Robinson tells Gilchrist. "It really does matter. My wife and I, we were in the Senate gallery during the final vote with our child. And this bill is about so much more than a celebration or a wedding party. It's about assuring that the millions of people, particularly LGBTQ+ people and folks that are in interracial marriages, to know that their marriages are safe and secure no matter what the Supreme Court could determine to do. It ensures that we will still have access to the more than 1,100 federal benefits that you receive as a married person, and it ensures that our marriages are protected no matter what state you live in, and that matters."

The bill received bipartisan support, with a scattering of Republicans joining all Democrats to pass it in both chambers. This shows much has changed in less than 20 years, Robinson says -- in 2004 there was an effort, ultimately unsuccessful, to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The change didn't happen by accident, she says. "It happened because people were willing to share their stories," Robinson says. "It happened because we changed hearts and minds."

But while a majority of Americans support marriage equality, there is a minority of haters who will continue to promote anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and even violence like the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Robinson warns. "There's so much more work to be done. ... We can anticipate a lot, really a wave, of anti-LGBTQ+ laws moving," she says.

"Even though this bill is historic, and it's so important and meaningful for millions of people in this country, it also doesn't change the reality that so many LGBTQ+ people are living in states and communities where they are experiencing fear," she says. "We are experiencing a crisis. I mean, we just saw the violent attack at Club Q. ... And we continue to see violent political rhetoric from politicians and, you know, political pundits like Tucker Carlson, and all of that is leading to real-life violence in our lives."

In states around the nation, bills have been introduced and some have passed that marginalize transgender youth and even deny them age-appropriate care, Robinson notes. More legislation like this will come, and so will other attacks on bodily autonomy now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade,she says.

"This fight is far from over, and we have to make sure we're looking directly at the states and particularly the actors and the people that are putting these bad bills forward," Robinson says.

Watch the full interview below.

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