A spokesperson from the vice president’s office is denying Joe Biden’s remarks on gay couples on Sunday were an endorsement of same-sex marriage.
“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,” the spokesperson said. “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.”
Under questioning from David Gregory this morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Biden said he’s “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of “men marrying men, women marrying women” having the exact the same rights as straight couples, prompting media outlets to report that the vice president announced support for same-sex marriage.
“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,” Biden said. “All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”
Biden said that change comes in the “social conscious” first, and credited the NBC sitcom “Will and Grace” with making the public fear gay people less, resulting in greater understanding and acceptance.
Never in his remarks on “Meet the Press” does Biden say he explicitly endorses same-sex marriage. The vice president’s comments are similar to ones he said in an interview in December 2010 on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” At the time, Biden said he thinks a national consensus on same-sex marriage is “inevitable.”
“I think the country’s evolving,” Biden. “And I think there’s an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage. That is my view. But this is the President’s policy. And, but it is evolving. I think the country is evolving.”
The clarified position that Biden is “evolving” on same-sex marriage is in line with President Obama’s views. In response to a question from AMERICAblog’s Joe Sudbay in October 2010, Obama said he could evolve to support same-sex marriage. Still, he has yet to endorse support for marriage equality.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement he’s “encouraged” by Biden’s remarks on marriage equality.
“We are encouraged by Vice President Biden’s comments, who rightly articulated that loving and committed gay and lesbian couples should be treated equally,” Solmonese said. “Now is the time for President Obama to speak out for full marriage equality for same-sex couples.”
A transcript of the exchange between Gregory and Biden follows, courtesy Think Progress:
David Gregory: Have your views evolved?
Joe 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. […]
David Gregory: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
Joe 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.
Watch the vice president’s remarks below, also via Think Progress:
NOTE: An initial version of this posting characterized Biden’s remarks as an endorsement of same-sex marriage. The posting has been updated to reflect the clarification from the vice president’s office.
Phil Reese contributed to this report.