The VP comes out for same sex marriage. Then his office insists he "was saying what the president has said"
For cryin’ out loud.
Sunday morning on “Meet the Press” Vice President Joe Biden went completely Joe Biden on the issue of marriage equality, telling David Gregory “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights,” and crediting “Will and Grace.” That’s the Joe Biden we know and love.
Here’s the exchange:
GREGORY: Have your views evolved?
BIDEN: The good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out what all marriages at their root are about. Whether they are marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals. [...]
GREGORY: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
BIDEN: Look, I am Vice President of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women 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. [...] I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done so far. People fear that is different and now they’re beginning to understand.
It seemed an important step for an administration that can’t seem to get the president all the way there. President Obama is going to have to come out for gay marriage one of these days – can anyone honestly believe he’s against it? — but having the Catholic Biden endorse it helps, too. The group Catholic Democrats immediately Tweeted the little known fact that Catholics are the most pro-gay marriage of all Christian groups. Yet the backwards politics of the U.S. Bishops means most people don’t know that, and thus view gay marriage as a no-fly zone during an election season when the Catholic swing vote is particularly important. So Biden’s comment mattered.
Then the Vice President’s office issued a 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.”
“He too is evolving.” Actually, it seemed as if Biden had finished evolving, and actually supported “men marrying men, and women marrying women.” For a moment, I actually thought having Biden step out ahead of Obama was a deliberate, maybe even slightly cynical campaign move. But apparently the campaign isn’t ready to take that chance. Why would it be a problem to have the grandfatherly Irish Catholic VP a step ahead of the president on this one, anyway? I don’t know, but backtracking seems like a lose-lose to me.
Lots of parsing on this one, though. Josh Marshall thinks it’s a way to actually move the president’s position a step ahead – by insisting “the vice president was saying what the president has said previously.” Maybe. Pam Spaulding is less impressed.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
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