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    At the White House for the Respect for Marriage Act Signing

    By Deb Kinney–

    Being at the White House to witness President Biden signing the Respect for Marriage Act bill was truly exhilarating and a milestone moment for our movement.  Activists, politicians, lawyers, movement leaders, plain

    tiffs in watershed cases and allies took part in what was a perfect balance of celebration  and political importance. 

    Senate Leader Chuck Schumer led off the festivities by sharing that his lesbian daughter and her spouse are expecting their first child and how he is looking forward to welcoming his third grandchild. Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke about the long road that many have traveled together to get to this point with her usual enthusiasm and clarity, praising the activists and allies that have been in the struggle for years.

    Vice President Kamala Harris reflected on her very intimate involvement in the movement dating back to her marrying her best friends at City Hall in 2004, to her tenure as Attorney General for California advocating for marriage equality during the Prop 8 case. President Biden acknowledged how he “got in trouble” as VP in 2012 with his remarks supporting marriage equality prior to then President Obama’s evolution of his stance on marriage equality. President Biden went on to clarify that his support has always been rooted in the concept that “Love is Love” and that being able to marry the person one loves should not be a political decision, but a deeply personal one.

    Cindy Lauper, Sam Smith and the Washington, DC Gay Men’s Chorus performed for the crowd adding fun, nostalgia, and levity. All in all, it was a joyous celebration and a moment in history that many thought would never come.

    The passage of this bill is monumental for the LBGTQ community. Marriage equality has been politicized for decades, and people’s rights and security were in abeyance for years as the courts struggled to decide if same-sex couples should have the right to marry with the benefits that flow from recognition of legal unions.  Many people flocked to San Francisco in 2004 to be married, only to find out that their marriages were declared invalid. Others who married in Massachusetts, or Canada and other states, were understandably disappointed to learn that they did not have the same rights as their neighbors. Those who married in California in 2008 had a six-month window before marriage was no longer possible. Federal recognition was elusive and tax benefits, social security and Medicare benefits were limited if at all.  Even worse, during the time when the only option for relationship recognition was Civil Union or Domestic Partnership, couples were recognized by their states as “married” and not recognized by the Federal government necessitating three tax returns each year. 

    But as of the signing on December 13, 2022, same sex couples are guaranteed federal recognition and some additional protections. The Respect for Marriage Act provides that same sex married couples will be afforded the same protections as their hetero married neighbors at both the state and national level. Unfortunately, it does not compel states to allow marriages, but does require recognition of a marriage performed in any state. Much like abortion laws, the actual right to marry will be state dependent. 

    This bill had bipartisan support. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, there was more support by Republicans before the elections in the first hearing of the bill than there was in the final vote. Nonetheless, it has been passed and enacted into law and married couples may rest assured for now that their rights are intact and will not be taken away. For those couples contemplating marriage or hoping someday to find the special person, they too should know that they will have the opportunity to be married. 

    “It’s one thing for the Supreme Court to rule on a case,” Biden said. “It’s another thing entirely if the elected representatives of the people take a vote on the floor of the United States Congress and say clearly ‘love is love, right is right, justice is justice.’” Today, the LGBTQ community solidified their place in American society with the respect and dignity they each deserve – the right to form legal familial relationships that will not be easily challenged in the Courts, nor afforded second class citizenship based upon who they love or who may be in office at any moment. For this we are grateful, relieved, and may we be sure to continue to support our favorite LGBTQ organizations who advocate on our behalf and secure our place in society. The battle has been won, but the war is not over. 

    Out of Left Field
    Published on January 12, 2023