Florida Democratic leaders react to Joe Biden signing bill protecting same-sex, interracial marriage
Image via AP.

Joe Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act AP
‘Today is one for the history books.’

President Joe Biden signed legislation Tuesday meant to safeguard same-sex and interracial marriage against future threats, including reconsiderations floated after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands attending a ceremony at the White House, Biden said the measure, the Respect for Marriage Act, “and the love it defends strikes a blow against hate in all its forms.”

“That’s why this law matters to every single American,” he said. “Racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia — they’re all connected. But the antidote to hate is love.”

The event marked the culmination of months of bipartisan work on Capitol Hill to shield gay marriage rights granted in the 2015 Obergfell v. Hodges decision, and bolster protections for interracial couples upheld in the 1967 ruling, Loving v. Virginia.

In a concurring opinion in the case that overturned Roe and kicked abortion regulations back to the states, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested revisiting other decisions, including the legalization of gay marriage. His comments generated fear that more civil rights could be in peril. Thomas, a Black man married to a White woman, did not include interracial marriage with other cases he recommended the court reconsider.

Lawmakers responded by crafting legislation with compromises intended to assuage conservative concerns about religious liberty. Under the new law, churches can still refuse to perform gay marriages. And while states won’t be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, they must recognize marriages conducted elsewhere in the country.

A majority of Republicans in Congress still voted against the legislation, which nonetheless had enough support to evade a filibuster in the Senate and ensure its passing.

Leaders in Florida were quick to react to news of the bill’s ratification.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson said she was “excited” to join her fellow lawmakers and “so many advocates who have fought tirelessly for marriage equality” in witnessing Biden sign the legislation.

“Today is one for the history books,” she said.

Like many others, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book took to Twitter to applaud the “landmark legislation.”

“Today, we celebrate the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act and the hard-won progress made by LGBTQ Americans,” she said, adding the measure “will enshrine equal rights for ALL married couples in federal law. LOVE wins.!”

Democratic Miami Gardens Sen. Shevrin Jones, the first LGBTQ Black person elected to the Florida Legislature, revealed Biden and the First Lady, Jill Biden, had invited him to the bill’s signing.

He declined to instead work in Tallahassee on passing property insurance reform.

“Unfortunately due to the Special Session on the most important thing facing Floridians, property insurance,” he said. “I won’t be able to attend, but progress never stops!”

Outgoing Democratic Orlando Rep. Carlos G. Smith, the first openly LGBTQ Latin person elected to the Legislature, celebrated the event.

“Thank you, President Joe Biden! With the signing of (the Respect for Marriage Act), our marriage is: Protected under federal law (and respected) in all 50 states,” he said, adding that Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, who opposed the bill, “are a stupid waste of time.”

Democratic Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the measure “reaffirmed marriage equality and clearly pronounced that love is love.”

“With a bipartisan effort in Congress, and President Biden’s steady leadership, American families across the nation ill at last receive both the dignity of marriage they deserve — and the promise of equal protection under the law, regardless of who they love,” she said. “From today onward, families across the nation will at last have the freedom and dignity of marriage equality with the full protection of the law.”

Miami-Dade Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins called the bill a “bipartisan watershed moment in the fight for civil rights.”

“We all deserve the privacy (and) freedom to love who we love,” she said. “More aspects of marriage equality will now be the law of the land, as it should be.”

Lawmakers from both parties attended the White House ceremony, as were the First Lady and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Singers Sam Smith and Cyndi Lauper performed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wore the same purple tie to the ceremony that he wore to the wedding of his daughter. She and her wife are expecting their first child in the spring.

“Thanks to the dogged work of many of my colleagues, my grandchildren will live in a world that will respect and honor their mothers’ marriage,” Schumer said on the Senate floor in the morning.

The triumphant mood played out against the backdrop of a conservative backlash over gender issues, which has alarmed gay and transgender people and their advocates. Biden criticized the “callous, cynical laws introduced in the states targeting transgender children, terrifying families and criminalizing 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 the attendees 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.

Plaintiffs from lawsuits that originally helped secure the nationwide right to gay marriage were also there.

“It’s not lost on me that our struggle for freedom hasn’t been achieved,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “But this is a huge step forward, and we have to celebrate the victories we achieve and use that to fuel the future of the fight.”

Robinson attended the ceremony with her wife and 1-year-old child.

“Our kids are watching this moment,” she said. “It’s very special to have them here and show them that we’re on the right side of history.”

Tuesday’s ceremony marks another chapter in Biden’s legacy on gay rights.

He memorably — and unexpectedly — endorsed same-sex unions in a television interview in 2012, when he was vice president. Days later, President Barack Obama announced that he also supported gay marriage.

A clip of the interview was played at the ceremony.

“What this is all about is a simple proposition: Who do you love?” Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” a decade ago. “Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that is what people are finding out is what all marriages at their root are about.”

A Gallup poll showed only 27% of U.S. 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 heterosexual marriages. Biden voted for the legislation.

By the time of Biden’s 2012 interview, gay marriage remained controversial, but support had expanded to roughly half of U.S. 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 includes the first openly gay Cabinet member, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and the first transgender person to receive Senate confirmation, Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this post. Republished with permission.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • Karen

    December 14, 2022 at 6:55 am

    No one has ever stopped you from loving who you love! I am tired however of you cramming your mental disorder down my throat! Do what you want just keep the hell away from me and my children and grandchildren! Stop trying to groom our kids into your sick world!

Comments are closed.


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