This weekend, we heard the strongest comments in support of gay marriage uttered this far from President Obama’s administration. They didn’t come from President Obama, though. His second-in-command had the honor of speaking up for marriage equality.
On Meet The Press, Vice President Joe Biden said, “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 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.”
As someone who was raised in the ultra-conservative Catholic Church, it was nice to hear someone else older who continues to practice Catholicism break down the issue in such simple but profound terms.
“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,” Biden said.
As a gay man who would at least like the option to dance down the aisle and at his divorce party to Beyoncé, it’s disappointing to have yet to hear such strong language from President Obama.
Biden’s spokesperson had a statement ready for any who shared that same critique: “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.”
No one can deny that President Obama has done more for gay rights than any other previous administration. Likewise, it’s evident that highly controversial cultural issues such as these require a sort of delicacy, though one wonders how much so now that a majority of Americans believe I should have the right to marry Michael Ealy as much as my sister does.
With the niceties out of the way, let’s be clear: President Obama has never said he was “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women” deserve the same rights and liberties as heterosexual couples.
What the President has said is that he opposes several anti-gay marriage legislation but is personally “evolving” on gay marriage itself. Those comments are not equal to Biden’s words. Spins be damned.
The issue with Obama’s “evolution” is that no one really believes he’s evolving so much as posturing for political reasons. He wasn’t straddling the lines in 1996 when he declared, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” It was only years later that a White House official stated, “If you actually go back and look, that questionnaire was actually filled out by someone else, not the President.”
Ultimately, policy is what counts but symbolism matters, so naturally many would look to the top in hopes that it could help set the tone for the debate as we move forward. Will that happen if he gets reelected? Biden told David Gregory, “I can’t speak to that. I don’t know the answer to that.’’
I imagine President Obama once his future is sealed, and while that makes sense politically, it’s reasonable for gay Americans to consider such pussyfooting problematic. I guess we just have to be patient. “Evolution” doesn’t happen overnight.