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The Respect for Marriage Act

Lauren Bell

Last week, President Biden signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act, ensuring that the basic rights of same-sex and interracial marriage can never be taken from us. 

I remember the day that same-sex marriage was legalized in North Carolina, about seven or so months before it was legalized nationwide. I feel very fortunate that I grew up in a safe and inclusive household that taught me from a young age to love and accept everyone. That day in October, my family celebrated the major victory for our southern state. At the time, I worked in the teens troupe at the Carolina Renaissance Festival, and that very weekend I was fortunate enough to witness what I’m guessing was one of the earliest legal same-sex marriages in the state. It was just the two men and their officiant, and my troupe and I watched on. When they said “I do” and kissed, we cheered “huzzah!” and I cried as I held my friend close. I had not only witnessed history, but love - true love - in action. 

When it was made legal nationwide, I was not as lucky to be in a safe space to celebrate. It was the summer and I was with my friend and her family in Florida, who I knew were not accepting of my “lifestyle” (their words, not mine). When I saw the headlines, I remember getting my phone and hiding in the bathroom, taking a moment to myself to feel the emotions. I saw the pictures of the White House lit up rainbow, of people celebrating in the streets. I remember posting about it on social media, and my friend who I was staying with saw it. She asked me what it meant. Fear rushed through me as I explained it to her, unsure how she would take it given her strict Christian upbringing and her parents’ beliefs. But she said “that’s great!”, understanding just how important the decision was for me and those I love. I knew at that moment that this person I had known since we were both 3 years old loved me all the same, even if her parents did not accept me.

It’s weird to think about the fact that we need to protect such a basic right as marriage through legislation. But when Roe v. Wade was overturned and people began discussing the possibility of overturning Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges and leaving it up to the states, I really began to fear for my future and the future of millions. While I hate that we live in a world where we must create such legislation to protect human rights, I am grateful that as a country we were able to get (somewhat) bipartisan support in passing the Respect for Marriage Act. I’m disgusted that anyone would vote against it - but that is not what I am focused on. Right now, all I care about is that we were victorious. The work is not done, and we are still far from true equality, but in this moment, love won.

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