On the House floor on Thursday, a parade of Democrats — some of them gay, many of speaking about their own same-sex marriages — stood to make the case for the measure. It repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and allowed states to refuse to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states. Once signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act will prohibit states from denying the validity of an out-of-state marriage based on sex, race or ethnicity.
“Today, we will vote for equality and against discrimination by finally overturning the homophobic Defense of Marriage Act and guaranteeing crucial protections for same-sex and interracial marriages,” Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, said on Thursday in the moments before it passed.
Later, at a ceremony to celebrate and officially transmit the legislation to Mr. Biden, Ms. Pelosi, whose speakership ends in the beginning of January, said that signing the bill was a fitting capstone to her tenure in the post, which began in 2010 with her signing legislation to allow the repeal of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy against gay and bisexual people serving openly in the military.
Former Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and one of the first openly gay members of Congress, was on hand to celebrate what he described the demise of yet another ignominious piece of policy, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act by its initials.
“I was here for the birth of DOMA, so I am very grateful to be able to be here for the funeral,” Mr. Frank said. “And it’s kind of a New Orleans moment; we are tooting our horns for the funeral — a much happier occasion than the birth.”
Still, despite the bipartisan nature of the vote, the majority of Republicans remained vocally opposed. During debate on Thursday, they argued that the measure was a response to a nonexistent threat to same-sex marriage rights, and condemned it as part of a plot by Democrats to upend traditional values, to the detriment of the country.
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Democrats had “conjured up” an “unfounded fear” that the Supreme Court was on the brink of nullifying same-sex marriage rights and other precedents, and said the measure still lacked sufficient protections for organizations that do not consider such unions valid.