By Karen Stokes
On Tuesday the nation celebrated President Biden signing the Baldwin-Collins Marriage Equality Bill into Law.
U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) led the push to enshrine marriage equality in federal law.
The law ensures that all married couples—including same-sex and interracial couples—are entitled to the rights and responsibilities of marriage while protecting religious liberties. The bill passed by a vote of 61-36 in the Senate and by a vote of 258-169 in the House.
“The thing that gets me so choked up is all the times somebody comes up and says this matters to me,” Baldwin said afterward, through tears.
The new law reflects the dramatic shift in public opinion on the issue of gay marriage within the last 20 years: In a 2004 Gallup poll, 42% of Americans supported same-sex marriage; now it’s 71%, the highest it’s ever been.
The festivities were held on the South Lawn of the White House with singers Sam Smith and Cyndi Lauper performing.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 lawmakers and advocates attended the signing ceremony on Tuesday, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Passing the Respect for Marriage Act wasn’t just the right thing to do for America. It was personal to us, to our staff and our families. And it’s certainly personal to me,” Schumer said. “The tie I am wearing reminds me what this moment is all about. It’s the tie I wore on the day my daughter got married to a beautiful young lady, one of the happiest days of my life.”
A few of the guests invited to the bill signing were members of the LGBTQ community and activists. They included Judith Kasen-Windsor, widow of gay rights activist Edie Windsor; Matthew Haynes, co-owner of Club Q, in Colorado Springs; Club Q shooting survivors James Slaugh and Michael Anderson; and a number of plaintiffs from cases that culminated in the landmark civil rights case Obergefell vs. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples can marry nationwide.
Cheers erupted from the crowd as Biden signed the bill.
“For most of our nation’s history, we denied interracial couples and same sex couples from these protections,” The President said. “It failed to treat them with equal dignity and respect.
And now, this law requires an interracial marriage and same-sex marriage must be recognized as legal in every state in the nation.”