President Joe Biden is poised to sign into U.S. law new federal protections for same-sex marriages, a step aimed at defending civil liberties that some fear are in danger because of a conservative Supreme Court.

Biden is expected to sign the Respect for Marriage Act during a ceremony today at the White House.

Congress introduced the bill in July, shortly after a high court decision on abortion that observers say threatens other privacy-based precedents, including same-sex and interracial marriage.

Getting it passed took on new urgency after Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in last month's midterm elections.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, described the passage of the legislation as a bittersweet moment.

Kennedy says the new law, while important, marks just another step in a never-ending battle for same-sex rights that has been underway for decades.

"It's fantastic for the gay community in the U.S. to know that they have a president that supports them and believes in their right to exist," she said in an interview.

"At the same time, we have to think about the others who don't have those privileges, and there's still a lot of work to do."

Thousands of people are expected to attend what White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described Monday as a "celebration" and an important display of bipartisan unity.

@JoeBiden to fortify same-sex marriage protection as time runs out on House Democrats. #USPoli #SameSexMarriages

"The legislation also enjoys support from a majority of Americans across party lines and faiths," Jean-Pierre said.

The law doesn't guarantee same-sex marriage rights; that role still rests primarily with a landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision that determined they are protected under the U.S. Constitution.

Should that decision be overturned, the question of whether to issue same-sex marriage licences would revert to the states, much as the June reversal of Roe v. Wade restored the ability to ban abortion at the state level.

In repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, the new law will enshrine federal recognition of same-sex marriage and require states to respect existing marriages, including those performed in other states.

The bill does nothing to address a growing wave of violent crime against the LGBTQ community, including a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs nightclub last month that killed five people and injured 19.

New law enforcement data released Monday painted only a partial portrait of hatred in the U.S., thanks to changes in reporting standards that kept a number of large police jurisdictions out of the 2021 data.

Of the 7,303 hate crimes catalogued in 2021 by the FBI, the bulk of them — 62 per cent — were motivated by racial hatred. Sexual orientation was the second largest category at 16 per cent, while four per cent involved gender identity.

"No one in this country should be forced to live their life in fear of being attacked because of what they look like, whom they love or where they worship," associate U.S. attorney general Vanita Gupta said in a statement.

Using its own statistics, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, issued a separate study earlier this year that found a 20 per cent increase in hate crimes across the board in 2021, including a 51 per cent spike in anti-LGBTQ crime.

That, Kennedy said, is the day-to-day reality for LGBTQ people, regardless of what the courts and lawmakers might say or do.

"When you're part of a marginalized group, you're always a target. It doesn't matter what the law says, because you haven't shifted the culture — the culture doesn't change just because there's a law in place," she said.

"We can point to the laws, and if we have the means we can use the law, but it doesn't change your day-to-day life in terms of how you navigate the world and how you navigate who you are and how you present in the world."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2022.

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