LGBTQ families react after President Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act

"It's one moment to celebrate on a long journey towards full equality."

December 13, 2022, 5:22 PM

LGBTQ families are celebrating after President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony held on the White House South Lawn.

The act codifies protections for same-sex and interracial marriage by mandating that states recognize lawful unions performed in other states. It does not require states to issue marriage licenses for same-sex or interracial couples -- currently those marriages are protected by the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges and 1967 Loving v. Virginia decisions -- however, the new law would effectively prevent married same-sex and interracial couples from being denied the civil benefits granted to them now, should either of those decisions ever be rolled back.

The House of Representatives passed the bill by a margin of 258-169 on Thursday last week, after the Senate pushed the bill through in late November on a 61-36 vote, following months of negotiation, sending the proposed legislation, which received bipartisan support, to the president's desk.

Thirty-nine House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans joined Democrats in passing the measure.

PHOTO: Kent and Diego Love-Ramirez married in 2007 and then again in 2012 in a legal ceremony.
Kent and Diego Love-Ramirez married in 2007 and then again in 2012 in a legal ceremony.
Courtesy of Love-Ramirez family

Kent Love-Ramirez, who married his husband Diego Love-Ramirez in 2007 and then again in a legal ceremony in 2012, told "Good Morning America" they followed the bill as it moved through Congress over the past year, and on Tuesday applauded Biden's signing of the act, calling it a "happy" development.

"It was reassuring to see how many Republican elected officials aligned with the Democrats to move this forward," the Michigan resident added. "But it was equally discouraging to see how many opposed it. So, there's certainly work to be done although we're also very reassured by what we see happening in society -- that our families are becoming more widely accepted -- and frankly, a lot of elected officials just need to sort of catch up with what we're already seeing in our daily lives in our communities."

At the same time, Love-Ramirez said the act isn't a complete package that ensures marriage equality for everyone.

"It's definitely a moment to celebrate but it is not without its compromise," the father of two said. "I always try to make clear that although this is a good moment, it's not the end game, that there are still limitations and it is not full equality for families like ours."

In addition to codifying some protections for same-sex and interracial couples, the Respect for Marriage Act also offers protections for religious groups who oppose those marriages, preventing them losing their tax-exempt status if they refuse services or goods to those couples.

PHOTO: Kent Love-Ramirez and Diego Love-Ramirez with their children.
Kent Love-Ramirez and Diego Love-Ramirez with their children.
Courtesy of Love-Ramirez Family

Beth McDonough of Northwest Pennsylvania also praised the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act this week, while cautioning that she felt more still needed to be done to fully protect same-sex and interracial couples.

"I'm thrilled our country has come such a long way in a short amount of time regarding public opinion around same sex marriage, and I'm excited about the federal protections being put in place to protect existing marriages," McDonough told "GMA" in an email.

"I think many people don't realize that this still leaves LGBTQ+ couples who are seeking to get married vulnerable to being discriminated against within their state," she added. "As far as we've come, we still have a long way to go in protecting the equal right of queer people to build families. Our culture is still saturated with the belief that there's a very specific 'right' way marriage should look, and it's important for us to keep pushing progress and normalizing the fact that there are many ways to form a family."

Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ organization based in St. Petersburg, hailed the act's signing as a "hopeful step" and an "important piece of legislation at a time when LGBTQ children and parents are under relentless attack."

"I think today is an important step in reinforcing that our families deserve the same protections that others take for granted," Smith told "GMA."

PHOTO: Nadine and Andrea Smith with their 11-year-old son.
Nadine and Andrea Smith with their 11-year-old son.
Courtesy Nadine Smith

The act in particular specifically recognizes marriages like Smith's, who is Black and is married to a white woman.

"As a lesbian in an interracial marriage, this is pretty important," she said.

She continued, "The majority of Americans support marriage equality. The majority of Americans support LGBTQ rights, but I think it's important that everybody wake up to this growing cadre of domestic terrorists who wish to silence most people for whom this is not the most important daily issue of their lives and intimidate those with us for whom it is most important issue that affects our lives daily."

Love-Ramirez said that for LGBTQ couples who aren't yet married, like he and his husband are, there were likely still obstacles ahead.

"The compromise in the act, in terms of it [not obligating] states to perform same sex marriages, is not necessarily a concern for us, but we recognize it as a concern for people who are not yet married, who, if the Supreme Court overturns marriage equality, they're still going to have to go out of state if they live in a state that doesn't perform same sex marriages -- and that's appalling," he said.

Love-Ramirez said he will continue advocating for others in the LGBTQ community until this "slow march" toward marriage equality is achieved.

"It's a continuation of many steps that have brought us to this point because a lot of advocacy and advancements led us to this point," he added. "So it's one moment to celebrate on a long journey towards full equality."