Civil rights groups are over the moon at President Joe Biden's signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, but they note that more needs to be done to assure LGBTQ+ equality in all aspects of life.
The act, which Biden signed into law Tuesday, will protect marriage rights and recognition for same-sex and interracial couples no matter what the Supreme Court does. It also repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, which is unenforceable due to Supreme Court decisions (that could be reversed) but remains on the books, and offers protections against discrimination based on a couple's identity.
Here is a sample of statements released by civil rights organizations and elected officials.
Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson: "Today is a historic day and a much-needed victory for our community. It should be lost on no one that this bill signing comes less than a month after a deadly attack on our community in Colorado Springs, and at a time when the community continues to face ongoing threats of online and offline violence, as well as legislative attacks on our rights. In signing this bill, President Biden has shown that LGBTQ+ peoples' lives and love are valid and supported. As a queer, married woman, this moment holds personal significance, and I will hold my wife and our son a little tighter tonight, alongside the 568,000 other same-sex married couples. We thank our legislative heroes and President Biden who fought to ensure that marriage equality will forever remain here to stay. And we continue our fight for the safety and security of our entire community."
Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings stated: "With his signature today, President Biden has erased the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act from the books and protected LGBTQ+ families from the possible depredations of a rogue Supreme Court."
Lambda Legal Chief Legal Officer Jennifer C. Pizer: "Today we are witness to the final erasure of the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has been an ugly stain on our federal statute books since 1996. While not perfect, the Respect for Marriage Act ensures marriages solemnized validly anywhere in these United States are valid everywhere in our country without government discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin. As important, those marriages are protected from the possible attacks of an extremist Supreme Court were it to take the outrageous, discriminatory step of erasing the fundamental right to marry. However, as we are now entering a new year with discriminatory state legislatures readying new attacks on LGBTQ+ people and everyone living with HIV, especially targeting transgender youth, now more than ever we need the Equality Act to follow the Respect for Marriage Act quickly into the U.S. Code."
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis: "Today, as it always does, love wins. The new law will protect LGBTQ Americans and couples of different races, and their families, recognizing that they and their marriages are as loving and worthy of recognition as any other couple. GLAAD is proud to be among all those at the White House celebration today who helped achieve this milestone and continue to fight for equality, freedom, and acceptance for every LGBTQ person."
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a lead sponsor of the legislation: "Today, we are making history and making a difference for millions of Americans. We are telling the millions of same-sex and interracial couples that we see them and we respect them. I am thinking of couples like my dear friends Margaret and Denise, who no longer have to worry their marriage could be on the chopping block. Because of our bipartisan work to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, millions of couples like Margaret and Denise can rest assured that the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities that come with marriage cannot be taken away by an activist Supreme Court. I am proud to have worked across the aisle to earn bipartisan support for our Respect for Marriage Act and am overcome with joy to see President Biden make marriage equality the law of the land."
U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus: "A decade ago, then-Vice President Biden made history when he came out in support of marriage equality, and today, President Biden has made history again by signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law. I thank President Biden for his leadership and support for this critical legislation. Our work, however, is not done. We need to harness the momentum of this key victory for equality and guarantee explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in all key areas of life through the Equality Act. The House passed this legislation in February 2021, and now the Senate must do the same and send the bill to President Biden's desk."
Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director, LGBTQ+ rights and special litigation for the Southern Poverty Law Center: "The Southern Poverty Law Center applauds President Biden for promptly signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law. We also applaud the bipartisan majority in the House and Senate who shepherded this historic legislation through, with support from the business and religious communities. For millions of marriages in the U.S., love has finally won over hate and equality over discrimination. Now we must continue our efforts to provide legal protection for LGBTQ+ community members facing attacks and discrimination in schools and in the workplace."
Joe Hollendoner, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center: "While today is a historic day, we must not forget why we were brought to this moment. The intentional erosion of abortion rights by the Supreme Court was a warning that our communities cannot depend on the court system's interpretation of our equality, and that we must codify our constitutional rights into law. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas himself linked the rollback of protections for abortion access to a continued rollback of our freedoms to have sex and be married. The Supreme Court is threatening to drag our rights into dangerous territory."
Legal Defense Fund President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson: "LDF applauds President Biden and the bipartisan group of Congressmembers who advanced this critical protection for LGBTQ+ and interracial couples -- one that will also, at long last, repeal the Defense of Marriage Act years after it was twice declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. ... Anything less than full equality for couples is the equivalent of relegating LGBTQ+ people and interracial couples to an inferior status in our nation. And, as we have seen all too often, perceiving a group of people as inferior leads to hateful speech, discriminatory laws, and violence intended to intimidate and terrorize marginalized people and their communities."
Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry: "New Ways Ministry joins with faithful Catholics across the U.S. in rejoicing at the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, which helps protect the right of same-gender couples to marry. We are particularly proud that this bill was shepherded through the House of Representatives by a Catholic, Honorable Nancy Pelosi. That it was signed into law by a Catholic, President Joe Biden, is an even greater reason to be proud. They are leaders who have imbibed Catholic Social Teaching, and their beliefs in the human dignity and equality of all people are inscribed in this Act. The fact that these two Catholic leaders have helped make this law possible reflects the immense movement in the U.S. Catholic Church for support for LGBTQ+ people, especially in regard to same-gender relationships. ... The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed this legislation, even as the bill received support from other conservative Christian denominations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Seventh Day Adventists. ... This new law, which was supported by so many Catholic people and legislators, provides a perfect opportunity for the bishops to open up the much-needed, much-requested, and long overdue dialogue about equality for LGBTQ+ people."