The bill passed by voice vote, the outlet reports, and also passed the House by voice vote in the previous Congress.
The legislation specifically addresses a portion of the U.S. code that applies to threats against presidents, former presidents and certain other people.
As currently written, the statute defines ”immediate family” as ”the wife of a former president during his lifetime, the widow of a former president until her death or remarriage, and minor children of a former president until they reach 16 years of age.”
Under the bill passed on Tuesday, however, the language would change to ”the spouse of a former president during a former president’s lifetime, the surviving spouse of a former president until the surviving spouse’s death or remarriage.”
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., a sponsor of the bill, said the proposed change to the federal code ”is long overdue.”
”Federal law hasn’t caught up to where progress in this country is, specifically when it comes to who a future president can be,” he said on the House floor.
”Without this change to the U.S. code, for example, the law that makes it a crime to threaten, kill, kidnap or inflict bodily harm upon the president or the president’s family would fail to include a future female or gay president and their potential spouse,” he added.
Although the United States has never elected a female candidate to the presidency, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the first woman to head a major-party ticket in 2016.
The U.S. has also never elected an LGBTQ president, but former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is gay, won the Iowa caucus in the 2020 Democratic primary seasons before dropping out of the race. He now serves as transportation secretary in the Biden administration.
Barriers were broken last year, however, when then-Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., became the first female vice president of the United States, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, became the first second gentleman.
On the House floor on Tuesday, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said that the language in the existing federal code ”disregards the fact that a president may be female and the president’s spouse may not be.”
”Although we still have a long way to go, both in equality and representation, our country’s government is growing closer to finally representing our nation’s brilliant diversity,” Cicilline said. ”Our laws must reflect the fact that a president and their spouse can be of any gender.”
”That concept may have seemed impossible a few decades ago, but today it is, thankfully, a true and real possibility,” he added.