Vice President Joe Biden offered a tacit endorsement of gay marriage on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, a series of remarks the White House and Obama campaign scrambled to walk back in a fit of apparent cognitive dissonance.
Biden told host David Gregory he is 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.
The vice president noted how much change has occurred within American society in recent years -- but noted a long-defunct sitcom as his example.
I take a look at when things really begin to change, is when the social culture changes, Biden said. I think 'Will and Grace' probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody's ever done so far. And I think -- people fear that which is different. Now they're beginning to understand.
Gregory started by noting President Barack Obama's evolving views on gay marriage, a point of contention that has left many baffled as to the president's exact stance on marriage equality. Biden was quick to point out that his own words do not carry as much weight as Obama's.
Look, I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy, he said.
The vice president's remarks set off a political and civil rights kerfuffle among advocates on the issue as well as political junkies hoping to spot a change in Obama's stance on gay marriage.
Biden's office told NBC political correspondent Chuck Todd his comments reflected the vice president's personal evolving views on gay marriage, and not the administration's official stance.
Then Obama's top political aide, David Axelrod, chimed in, telling Todd via Twitter that Biden's views and the president's do not differ at all.
What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS's position, he wrote.
Gay rights groups welcomed Biden's remarks, after spending the better part of Obama's term prodding him for a more aggressive push toward full equality.
The VP's comments were encouraging - now is the time for the president to support marriage equality, said a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, Fred Sainz, according to BuzzFeed.
Biden has been a vocal supporter of equal rights for same-sex couples in the past, and predicted the nation will eventually shift towards supporting gay marriage. But during the 2008 campaign, Biden refined his message to be in step with Obama's.
Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage, he said during a vice presidential debate with Sarah Palin. We do not support that.
You can see a full video of Biden's remarks below: