“I am vice president of the United States of America,” Biden said. “The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction– beyond that.”
Joe Biden made the comments during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, according to ABC News. The vice president told host David Gregory his personal views were a matter of heart.
“Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love?” Biden said, “And that’s what people are finding out what all marriages at their root are about.”
Biden’s remarks came as the Obama administration continued to walk a political tightrope over same-sex marriages, with Barack Obama’s own position on the issue said by aides to be “evolving”.
David Axelrod, the Obama campaign chief strategist, explained on Twitter that Mr Biden had only “precisely” stated Mr Obama’s position that “that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights,” writes The Telegraph.
A Biden spokesperson added further clarification: “The vice president was saying what the president has said previously – that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to rollback those rights.”
“That’s why we stopped defending the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges and support legislation to repeal it. Beyond that, the Vice President was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue, after meeting so many committed couples and families in this country,” the spokesperson said in the statement.
“The president continues to fight, whether it’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or whether it is making sure, across the board that you cannot discriminate. Look [at] the executive orders he’s put in place: Any hospital that gets federal funding, which is almost all of them, they can’t deny a partner from being able to have access to their partner who’s ill or making the call on whether or not they — you know — it’s just — this is evolving,” Biden said in the interview.
“I take a look at when things really begin to change, is when the social culture changes. I think “Will and Grace” probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far. And I think — people fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand,” said Biden rediting the television sitcom whose lead character was a gay lawyer in New York for breaking down prejudice.
The Obama administration, which has traditionally held warm relations with the LGBT community and has major donors among the gay and lesbian lobby groups, has equivocated on gay marriage to avoid alienating socially conservative and religious voters who say equality for gay marriage undermines traditional notions of the family and infringes religious freedoms.
President Obama himself appears in a video from the “It Gets Better Project,” a series of videos supporting gay victims of bullying.
The Republican challenger to President Obama, Mitt Romney, has also tried to stay out of the debate, but last week his campaign forced the resignation of his openly gay national security spokesman Richard Grenell who said his position had been rendered untenable because of the “hyper-partisan” discussions on the issue.
Los Angeles Times reports that gay rights activists said they liked what Biden said but were curious about how far Obama was willing to move, and when.
“We are encouraged by Vice President Biden’s comments, who rightly articulated that loving and committed gay and lesbian couples should be treated equally,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Now is the time for President Obama to speak out for full marriage equality for same-sex couples.”