By TaRhonda Thomas
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — President Joe Biden’s signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects same-sex and interracial marriages by federal law, was as much a celebration as it was a signing.
Singers including Sam Smith and Cindy Lauper performed for the crowd right before Biden signed the piece of legislation. It’s a moment Shanay Rowe didn’t think she’d ever see growing up in North Philadelphia.
“When I was younger, I didn’t think that marriage would be an opportunity for me,” said Rowe who is a member of the LGBTQ community and serves as assistant director of Philadelphia Family Pride, an organization that provides educational and social activities for families lead by people who identify as LGBTQ.
“This is America,” said Rowe. “Families look the spectrum of the rainbow.”
Rowe knows that the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act is monumental. The bill passed Congress, gaining bipartisan support from a minority of Republicans
“I think the language was also important for marriage equality, not necessarily same-sex marriage,” said Rowe.
With President Biden’s signature Tuesday afternoon, the marriage rights of same-sex couples are protected by federal law.
“Love is love. Right is right. Justice is justice,” Biden said just before signing the bill into law.
It’s an act that comes just in time for Tyrell Brown.
“Me and my partner got engaged,” he said excitedly of the couple’s 2020 engagement as they continue to plan their wedding.
Brown is the deputy director of Galaei, a nonprofit based in Kensington.
“We focus on serving queer people of color,” said Brown.
One of his jobs is to provide a safe space, but that’s not easy to do as he worries about his own rights.
“I can’t tell you how important it is that we feel protected,” he said.
While the federal law doesn’t mandate that all states issue same-sex marriage licenses, it requires all states to recognize licenses issued legally in other states. The Respect for Marriage Act does include some protection for religious liberties. Lawmakers spent months negotiating over that.
The act also requires states to honor all marriages regardless of sex, ethnicity, nationality or race. That’s key to Brown.
“My partner and I are different races,” he said. “It’s not about woke culture. It’s about liberty, equality and justice for all.”
“For Marriage Equality across the board,” said Rowe who speaks of the newly-signed act not just professionally but personally.
“I got married July 2,” she said with a smile while describing her and her wife’s wedding celebration in Philadelphia.
She and other couples are now confident that their relationships are protected by the Respect for Marriage Act.
“For it to be equal across the board,” she said, “and that’s what this act is going to get us.”