Advertisement

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer Celebrate After Congress Passes Historic Respect for Marriage Act

House signs RFMA
House signs RFMA

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty

The Respect for Marriage Act is on the verge of becoming law, proving just how far support for same-sex marriage has come in the past few years.

On Thursday morning, the House of Representatives passed an amended version of the bill on a 258-169 vote, with 39 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.

The bigger feat came on Nov. 29, when the Senate — once seen as unlikely to rally behind the bill — passed it on a 61-36 vote. A total of 12 Republican senators, each for their own reason, crossed party lines to ensure its passage.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her final days as the Democratic House leader, hosted an enrollment ceremony for the legislation on Thursday, where she and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signed the final bill so that it could be shipped off to President Joe Biden's desk.

RELATED: Love Her or Not, Nancy Pelosi's Legacy as House Speaker Is Nothing Short of Remarkable

House signs RFMA
House signs RFMA

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kisses former Rep. Barney Frank, the first congressman to voluntarily come out as gay

"What a great day, isn't it? Aren't we happy to be here?" Pelosi said at the ceremony. "May I thank you all — not only for being here, but for being there on this issue for such a long time. At last we have history in the making, but not only are we on the right side of history, we are on the right side of the future: expanding freedom in America."

Joined by representatives and senators on both sides of the aisle who were integral in lobbying for the act's passage, Pelosi spoke on the importance of the legislation.

"Today we stand against an urgent threat, and we succeeded for the values that our nation holds dear," Pelosi said. "Since the monstrous Dobbs decision, right-wing forces have set their sights on more of America's personal freedoms, including the right to marry the person you love. Our history has always been about expanding freedom, until that decision."

After Pelosi handed over the podium for Schumer to add his remarks, he said of Pelosi, "No matter where she stands, her stature is always enormous."

RELATED: House Democrats Give Outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi a New Title to Honor Her 20 Years of Leadership

Schumer spoke of the Respect for Marriage Act's personal significance, as he watches his daughter and her wife prepare to welcome a child.

"Today thanks to the tireless advocacy of many, many in this room, and the dogged work by many of my colleagues, my grandchild will live in a world that will respect and honor their mothers' marriage," he said.

"This legislation is a chance to send a message to Americans everywhere: No matter who you are, who you love, you, too, deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law. That's about as American an ideal as it gets."

House signs RFMA
House signs RFMA

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Speaker Nancy Pelosi signs the Respect for Marriage Act

The energy of the room was both emotional and joyful, filled with back and forth banter between the longtime Democratic leaders and heartfelt testimonies from supporters of the bill, some of whom identify as gay — including co-sponsor Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who thanked everyone for helping defy "political gravity" in the Senate and getting such a strong bipartisan embrace of LGBTQ+ rights.

RELATED: 2 Senators, Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Tammy Baldwin, Pen Op-Ed to Support Marriage Equality

Former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, the first congressman to voluntarily come out as gay, attended the ceremony and asked to say a few words before lawmakers posed with the enrolled bill.

He spoke of the intelligence and leadership that Baldwin, who made history as the first lesbian U.S. senator in 2013, demonstrated in making strategic decisions and simultaneously changing hearts through her lobbying of the Respect for Marriage Act. "I just want to pay tribute to one of the greatest legislative achievements I've ever seen," he said: "Tammy shepherding this bill through."

RELATED: Barney Frank Becomes First Member of Congress to Marry Same-Sex Partner

Biden has vowed to quickly enact the Respect for Marriage Act, ensuring that if the conservative-leaning Supreme Court were ever to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges — the landmark 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide — married gay couples would still be recognized federally.

The legislation was proposed this year after conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that he would like Obergefell, along with other landmark cases involving gay relationships and access to contraceptives, to be reconsidered.