This morning on Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden ignited controversy when he endorsed same-sex marriage, forcing a quick quasi-walkback by Obama campaign head David Axelrod. Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with “men marrying men, women marrying women.” Biden refused to say whether a second term Obama administration would endorse same-sex marriage. Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript:
BIDEN: Look, I just think that the good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about, it’s 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, is what all marriages at their root are about, whether they’re marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals.
GREGORY: Is that what you believe now?
BIDEN: That’s what I believe.
GREGORY: And 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 and women marrying – 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.”
Biden went further, actually. He said that “people fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.” Which certainly sounds a lot like a full endorsement of same-sex marriage, and a corresponding attack on those who disagree.
Chuck Todd of NBC News immediately reported that Biden’s office said “he was speaking for his own evolving on marriage not for the admin.” But then Axelrod tweeted, “What VP said – that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights – is precisely POTUS’s position.”
So which was it? Was Biden endorsing same-sex marriage, or merely the Defense of Marriage Act, which would allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states? It’s pretty obviously the former – according to Biden, all opposition to same-sex marriage is based on ignorance and fear. So why wouldn’t he simply endorse same-sex marriage?
The Obama administration’s “evolving” stance – which is to say, its ideological support for same-sex marriage but political unwillingness to support it — openly perplexes even those on the left. But Obama isn’t foolish enough to fully endorse same-sex marriage, which would alienate prospective voters in swing states like Ohio and Virginia.