Marriage Discussion Heats Up

Biden, Clinton and other Dems stand up for marriage equality this week

Photo by Think Stock

It’s been an interesting week for same-sex marriage. On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden told NBC’s David Gregory, “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.”

His statement is more progressive than that of President Obama, who seems to be keeping quiet about same-sex marriage as the presidential campaign heats up this year. And for that reason it didn’t take long before White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was compelled to explain away Biden’s remarks, well, sort of.

Inundated with questions about the president’s take on gay marriage, Carney said yesterday that he had no additional details about Obama’s personal views, adding, “What the vice president said yesterday was to make the same point that the president has made previously, that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans.”

Is it just us or is the press secretary giving President Obama a bit more credit than he might deserve at this point? While his administration has been progressive in several LGBT rights areas – like repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and ensuring that same-sex couples may have access to equal visitation rights at hospitals, it’s not exactly come out in support of marriage equality as Biden did on Sunday. This isn’t to say that Obama isn’t evolving in his views compared to his first election cycle when we have more than a few quotes of him suggesting that marriage is between “a man and a woman” – not exactly a far cry from the GOP candidates, is it?

Obama has admitted in recent months that he has progressed on the issue, so we can’t help but wonder if maybe Biden is being used to bolster support in the LGBT community for the administration without the president actually stepping forward and making any statements that can – and probably would – be used in an attack ad.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan also said he supports marriage equality during an appearance yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

In response, Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, had this to say:

“Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s announcement this morning adds him to the drumbeat of Obama administration members coming out in support of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Like Vice President Biden, former Presidents Clinton and Carter, former Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney, Laura Bush, and the majority of Americans, Secretary Duncan knows that loving and committed gay couples seek the freedom to marry for the same mix of reasons as other couples: to make a vow to one another, to share life with the person they love, and to protect their families. Standing up for the freedom to marry is not just the right thing to do, it’s the right thing politically, and it’s time for the president to stand on the right side of history.”

Former President Bill Clinton also made inroads for marriage equality yesterday, fighting against North Carolina’s Amendment One which would constitutionally ban same-sex marriage rights as voters head to the polls in today’s election. Clinton sent a robocall letting voters know that by limiting marriage rights, it will hold the state back in many other areas:

“If it passes, it won’t change North Carolina’s law on marriage. What it will change is North Carolina’s ability to keep good businesses, attract new jobs and attract and keep talented entrepreneurs.”

And Caroline Kennedy also made a statement, calling for the Democratic party to step up in support of LGBT rights. She joined the Freedom to Marry’s “Democrats: Say I Do” campaign that advocates equality as part of this year’s Democratic agenda.

“There are few things in life more important than being able to marry and build a family with the person you love,” Kennedy said in a statement. “This fundamental right should be available to all Americans, including gay and lesbian couples. In our democracy we are fortunate to have elected officials at all levels of government, and courageous jurists who have put their careers on the line, to uphold the promise of equality that is as old as our Constitution, and I hope that many more will follow their example.”

Yesterday, she honored three former Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality three years ago with the 2012 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.