May 7th, 2012
03:10 PM ET
11 years ago

White House downplays Biden's same-sex marriage remarks

(CNN) - White House Press Secretary Jay Carney faced questions over the president's position on same-sex marriage Monday, after some in the Obama administration –including Vice President Joe Biden - expressed support for the issue in the last two days.

Biden, Carney argued, was not voicing a new White House position when he said Sunday he was "absolutely comfortable" with two individuals of the same gender getting legally married.

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"What the vice president said yesterday was to make the same point the president has made 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 roll back those rights," Carney said in the White House press briefing.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Biden gave an impassioned answer on what he sees as a changing, more inclusive shift in American culture to the LGBT community, going further in stating his views than President Barack Obama has in the past.

The president, who once opposed same-sex marriage, has taken the official position that his stance on the issue is "evolving." He has hinted at fundraisers, however, that there is more work to be done, leading many in the LGBT community to believe the president may work to legalize same-sex marriage on the national level under a second term.

Some on Twitter seized on the vice president's words Sunday to question whether the White House was signaling a change in position on the issue ahead of the election.

But Carney on Monday shot down the idea, saying Biden's words mirrored –not advanced– the president's position. He also pointed to the administration's work in repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and its decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act as examples of the president's policies toward LGBT rights.

"I think you have heard him say, and those in the administration like myself who speak for him, that he strongly opposes efforts to restrict rights to repeal rights for same sex couples," Carney said.

Pressed on the Obama's position, Carney said he has "no update on the president's personal views" but referenced that Obama has previously said his stance was "evolving."

Also weighing in Monday, senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said Biden's comment did not represent a change in policy for the administration. He expressed a similar sentiment Sunday via Twitter.

"I think they were entirely consistent with the president's position," Axelrod said on a conference call with reporters. "A couple who are married, whether they're gay or heterosexual, are entitled to the same rights and very same liberties."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday also made headlines when he openly backed same-sex marriage rights.

Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," if he supports individuals of the same gender to legally wed, Duncan replied: "Yes, I do."

"I don't think I've ever been asked publicly," Duncan said.

Adding to the mix, Obama campaign co-chair Caroline Kennedy released a statement Monday in favor of a plank for same-sex marriage rights as part of the Democratic National Convention's platform later this year.

The proposal, however, has caused division within the party. While Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa has sided with the idea, Carney said Monday "it's a platform that hasn't been developed" and deferred further questions to the Democratic National Committee.

Kennedy, who also served as a co-chair on Obama's 2008 vice presidential search committee, pushed Monday for the party to officially include same-sex marriage rights in its platform.

"There are few things in life more important than being able to marry and build a family with the person you love. This fundamental right should be available to all Americans, including gay and lesbian couples," Kennedy said in a statement released by Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group.

According to the latest CNN/ORC International Poll, a majority of Americans (53%) believe marriages between gay or lesbian couples should be recognized as valid, while 45% disagree with the notion.

The issue is also making news this week in North Carolina, where voters will cast their ballots Tuesday on an initiative that would add a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and partnerships.

High-profile figures have added their voices to the debate. Evangelist Billy Graham made a rare public statement endorsing the measure, while former President Bill Clinton, who used to oppose same-sex marriage, recorded robo calls to half a million voters urging them to vote against the initiative.

Freedom to Marry quickly put out a statement Monday on Duncan's comments.

"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," the group's founder, Evan Wolfson, said in a statement

He also pointed to Biden, Clinton, former Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney, as well as Laura Bush, as examples of high-profile Democrats and Republicans in support of same-sex marriage.

"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," Wolfson said.

Obama's North Carolina campaign spokesperson Cameron French put out a release in mid-March, stating the president's opposition to the proposed amendment.

“While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples," French said. "That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do – it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the President does not support it.”

- CNN's Jessica Yellin, Ashley Killough and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.

Also see:

Romney adviser left after being silenced, source says

Ayotte: I'm more qualified than Obama

Gingrich steps up support for Romney, predicts Mourdock wins in Indiana

Filed under: 2012 • Arne Duncan • Joe Biden • President Obama • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Ol' Yeller

    It really cracks me up that people on here could say with a straight face that Obama is just sucking up to get hte black or gay vote... I don't see Romney getting many black votes no matter what the President says on this issue... I don't see many gays voting republican regardless of Obama's postion on this. I mean, he already suspended the enforecment of the Marriage Act some time ago... how is his stance changing now?

    May 7, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. Al-NY,NY

    Democrat Class Warfare – Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    If gays can marry then it neeeds to be completely opened up to polygamist marriages and people/animal unions. There should be NO denying happiness for anybody no matter how they get it.

    Whew...I was beginning to get worried that the "person/animal" drivel would not be forthcoming from the tightie righties..... Good job there "Democrat Class." You've restored my confidence that the right will contort gay marriage into another completely uninvolved issue as they seek to invoke their will and morals on everyone. The American Taliban lives!!!

    May 7, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Ol' Yeller
    It really cracks me up that people on here could say with a straight face that Obama is just sucking up to get hte black or gay vote... I don't see Romney getting many black votes no matter what the President says on this issue... I don't see many gays voting republican regardless of Obama's postion on this
    They might choose to simply stay home and not vote for Obama.

    I mean, he already suspended the enforecment of the Marriage Act some time ago..
    A violation of his oath of office. It is NOT his job to pick and choose what laws he wants to enforce. If he doesn't like the law then propose a repeal and let people vote on it. But Obama prefers to play the part of a dictator and make unlawful decisions.

    May 7, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Sniffit stated to Fair is Fair
    Sort of like someone writing a letter in 2009 urging a president to adopt federal legislation using the model of his own state legislation but then attacking him 3 years later for having done so.
    When are these okey dokeys going to learn to stop leaving themselves WIDE OPEN to us, and you in particular?! LOL!

    May 7, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  5. astuartgirl

    Exactly, @ThinkAgain! Could not have said it better myself.

    May 7, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Mikey

    @Class Warfare – Thanks for the "parade of horribles" argument. That same argument could have been made for interracial marriages, too. Or how about marriages between redheads and brunettes. Well if we let them marry, we have to let anyone marry, even gay people, or multiple people, or people an animals, or people and space alians, or people and machines.

    Can we argue the other direction and say if we don't let gay people get married then we have to prevent others from getting married? Thanks for starting the week off with a totally stupid, pointless argument.

    May 7, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. randy

    why is this always a religious issue? what would darwin say?

    May 7, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Mikey

    @You heard it – Did it ever dawn on you that President Obama or his Administration might possible support something because it's the right thing to do. I suggest in the future you start with that frame of mind first. You might have a better understanding of the world and, in the end, you might become a better person. Always assuming the other side disagrees with you because they are evil will eventually turn you into a horrible person.

    May 7, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Mikey - @Class Warfare – Thanks for the "parade of horribles" argument.
    Who are YOU to discriminate against anybody elses right to be happy? What gives YOU the right to draw the line where YOU want it instead of where I want it? If I want 5 wives, why can't I have them? How is that hurting YOU? And if you want to marry your sheep, why should I be able to tell no and interfere with your happiness?

    May 7, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. Dean

    If half of the admisistration supports one view, and the other half supports the other, then they have it covered.

    May 7, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. Biotechdev

    The economy is still in tatters. And we have had to go through a vicious and divisive battle incited by Obama on class warfare, gender warfare, race warfare and now gay marriage and his failed foreign policies and ......what else do you think he can come up with to distract America from the economic damage he has caused?????

    May 7, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
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