Cyndi Lauper Appears At White House Briefing, South Lawn Ceremony To Praise New Marriage Equality Bill: “We Can Rest Easy Tonight Because Our Families Are Validated”

The White House again drew on celebrity activists as it marked another legislative milestone: Cyndi Lauper performed and spoke briefly to reporters on Tuesday as President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that will protect same-sex and interracial marriage rights at the federal lebel.

“I came here today because I just wanted to say thank you to President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, Vice President Harris and all the advocates on his team because for once, our families, mine and a lot of my friends, people you know, sometimes your neighbors,” Lauper told reporters in a surprise appearance in the briefing room. “We can rest easy tonight because our families are validated, because we are allowed to love who we love, which sounds odd to say, but Americans can now who we love. Bless Joe Biden and all the people who worked on this for allowing people not to worry about their future.”

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The Respect for Marriage act would ensure that same-sex marriages rights are protected at the federal level. The legislation passed with bipartisan support, amid fears that past Supreme Court precedent would be overturned.

Lauper later performed True Colors at a South Lawn ceremony, joined by Sam Smith, who sang Stay with Me. Last fall, the White House brought James Taylor to perform at an event to mark the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The ceremony was carried by CNN and MSNBC, but not Fox News.

With the columns of the South Portico bathed in rainbow colors, Biden said that the bill was “a vital step toward equality, toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but everyone.”

“There is nothing more decent, more dignified, more American, that what we are doing here today,” Biden said. He also noted that the final passage of the bill in the House last week came on the same day that Brittney Griner was released from Russian incarceration. Cherelle Griner, her wife, said, “Today, my family is made whole.”

As he signed the bill, Biden was surrounded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who helped draw enough Republican to overcome a filibuster. Also on stage was Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the fist openly gay official to be confirmed to a cabinet post.

Some 3,000 people gathered for the ceremony, bundled up with temperatures in the 30s, but entertained to disco tunes from ABBA and the Bee Gees, among others. Once Biden signed the bill, Born This Way was blasted on the giant speakers.

Before Biden took the stage, the crowd heard his words from a 2012 appearance on Meet the Press, in which he expressed his support for marriage equality, becoming one of the highest profile public officials to do so. Biden, then vice president, upstaged President Barack Obama’s own plans to do so later that year. But Biden had signaled his support days earlier, when he met with LGBT donors and activists at the home of HBO’s Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward.

“I got in trouble,” Biden quipped.

On the steps of the South Portico stood plaintiffs who pursued marriage equality cases through the years, including Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo and Sandy Stier and Kris Perry, the two couples who successfully challenged California’s Proposition 8, which passed in 2008 and banned same sex marriages in the state. The fight for marriage equality culminated in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell vs. Hodges, which recognized a right to same-sex marriage across the country. The plaintiff in that case, Jim Obergefell, was not present for the White House ceremony, but Biden recalled talking to him on the day of the high court ruling.

The impetus for the legislation was Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health decision, which paved the way for states to pass laws banning abortion. Thomas suggested that the rationale for overturning Roe vs. Wade could be applied to other precedents, including same-sex marriage and the right to contraception.

If the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, were to overturn Obergefell, states would still be able to restrict same-sex marriage. But with the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, they would have to recognize marriages performed in states where they are legal. The federal government also would recognize marriage rights for same-sex couples.

More to come.

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