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Opinion Nancy Pelosi: I’m proud to protect marriage as one of my last acts as speaker

Supporters of marriage equality rally in front of the Supreme Court on June 25, 2015, ahead of a decision on the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
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Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, is speaker of the House of Representatives.

Since the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges seven years ago, same-sex couples have enjoyed the same marriage protections as other couples.

But right now, that fundamental freedom is under real, direct and urgent threat.

In June, the Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court eviscerated long-standing precedent and the right to privacy with its disgraceful decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Justice Clarence Thomas took explicit aim at marriage equality: urging the court to reconsider Obergefell and upend the lives of countless families across the country. While his legal reasoning is twisted and unsound, we must take Justice Thomas — and the extremist movement behind him — at their word.

Our Respect for Marriage Act combats this threat by requiring states to recognize same-sex marriages, as long as they are valid in the state where they were performed. It also finally repeals the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, so that no future MAGA majority in Congress or president in the White House can wield this policy as a weapon of bigotry.

We soon will send this vital legislation to President Biden for signature: a glorious triumph of love, of freedom and of dignity for all.

This action is the latest step forward in House Democrats’ longtime fight for full equality, waged alongside generations of fearless activists.

In my first speech on the House floor, I declared that “we must take leadership of course in the crisis of AIDS.”

During my first speakership, we erased the egregious “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy from the books — ensuring gay and lesbian Americans can openly serve their country. We advanced justice for the millions at risk of violence simply for who they are or whom they love with our Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. And we dramatically increased funding to fight HIV/AIDS — here at home and around the globe.

Since Democrats retook the House majority four years ago, we have twice passed the watershed Equality Act, which would secure full civil rights protections for sexual orientation and gender identity — in the workplace and in every place. House Democrats also forcefully fought back against the previous administration’s abhorrent ban on transgender servicemembers, which President Biden swiftly repealed upon taking office.

And now, we celebrate the Respect for Marriage Act.

There remains more work ahead. Horrifically, Republican states have sought to ban transgender athletes from the playing field, prosecute parents who seek gender-affirming care for their children and even muzzle teachers for acknowledging the existence of same-sex couples.

Our nation is forever grateful for the many extraordinary contributions that LGBTQ Americans have made in the arts and sciences, health care and human rights, businesses and nonprofits, and as leaders in our communities. To our LGBTQ friends, family and neighbors: We see you, we stand with you and we will never rest until you can enjoy the respect, dignity and safety you deserve.

Just as I began my career fighting for LGBTQ communities, I am overjoyed that one of the final bills I will sign as speaker will be the Respect for Marriage Act: ensuring the federal government will never again stand in the way of marrying the person you love.

After the Obergefell decision was announced, Jim Obergefell declared to an ecstatic crowd outside the Supreme Court: “Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court affirms what millions across this country already know to be true in our hearts: Our love is equal.”

That is a truth that Democrats proudly honor this week as we carry on our mission to build a brighter, fairer future for generations to come.