Washington, DC —(Map)
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden signed the “Respect for Marriage Act”. The new law says that the US government recognizes marriages between two men or two women, as well as between people of different races.
Under the new law, the US government will treat same-sex and interracial marriages just like they treat marriages between a man and a woman of the same race. The law requires all US states to accept marriages performed in other states. It also gives these couples the same rights that husbands and wives normally have.
Ideas about homosexuality have changed a lot in recent decades. Just 26 years ago, Congress passed a law saying that marriage could only happen between a man and a woman. The new law overturns that law completely. But back then, 68% of Americans were against same-sex marriage.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first US state to allow same-sex couples to get married. In 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that all states must recognize and allow same-sex marriages, just like marriages between a man and a woman.
Currently, about 70% of Americans approve of allowing same-sex couples to get married. Republicans are more likely to oppose same-sex marriage than Democrats. But even so, most Republicans approve of same-sex marriage.
The new law also protects the rights of couples of different races to marry. A Supreme Court decision in 1967 made it clear that interracial marriage was legal. Once an unpopular idea, interracial marriage is now approved of by about 94% of Americans.
Mr. Biden says the new law helps protect the “right of Americans to marry the person they love.” Over the last 20 to 30 years, many politicians, including Mr. Biden, have changed their positions to become supporters of same-sex marriage. Many people say that having a gay or lesbian friend or family member helped change their minds.
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There are still plenty of Republican politicians who oppose the idea. But Democrats managed to get the support of 12 Republican senators and 39 Republican House members to help pass the Respect for Marriage Act.
Congress and Mr. Biden worked quickly to pass the law. One reason for acting quickly was that Republicans will control the House of Representatives in the next session of Congress. Another reason had to do with the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court currently has a strong majority of justices chosen by Republicans. Recently, the court has made changes in laws that most people thought were settled. Now many people worry that the Supreme Court might change its mind about same-sex marriage, too.
The new law is a big step forward for protecting the rights of gay and lesbian couples, but it doesn’t protect same-sex marriage completely. If the Supreme Court did change its mind about same-sex marriages, then each state could make its own laws. But even those that didn’t allow same-sex marriages would still have to recognize couples married legally in other states.
In announcing the signing of the new law, Mr. Biden said, “There are few things as clear and right as marriage equality.”
Did You Know…?
Similar changes are happening around the world. The US is one of 34 countries that recognizes same-sex marriages. Many other countries are also slowly moving in the same direction.
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