Obama has been taciturn on the issue of same-sex marriage, declining to explicitly outline his stance and offering only that his views are evolving. Biden was more forthright during a Sunday appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, saying he was absolutely comfortable with same-sex marriage and speaking evocatively of love and commitment.
I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties, Biden said.
While Biden clarified that Obama is the one who lays out the administration's policies, the contrast between his candor and Obama's reticence was stark. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan added to the confusion by saying during a Monday morning episode of MSNBC's Morning Joe that he favored gay men and lesbians being allowed to marry.
In a Monday conference call with reporters, Axelrod emphasized that Biden's statement did not represent a break with the administration's stance. He pointed to Obama's instructing the U.S. Department of Justice to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
I think [Biden's words] were entirely consistent with the president's position, which is that couples who are married, whether they're gay or heterosexual couples, are entitled to the very same rights and very same liberties, Axelrod said, according to accounts of the conference call. And that's why the president and the administration has stood down on the DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] court case. The president believes that the law is unconstitutional and when people are married we ought to recognize those marriages according to the rights to which they're entitled.
Axelrod also took the opportunity to draw a distinction between Obama and likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, pointing out that Romney had contributed money in support of Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative that barred the state from honoring same-sex marriages. The Church of Latter-Day Saints, of which Romney is a prominent member, was also a major backer of Proposition 8.
There couldn't be a starker contrast on this issue than with Gov. Romney, who has funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California and other places, Axelrod said, adding that Romney would take us backward not forward.
While Obama has drawn praise from gay rights advocates for his order on the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as his role in ending the ban on gays serving in the military, he has faced pressure to do more. Activists have urged him to be more aggressive in supporting same-sex marriage at the state level, and he has come under criticism for declining to issue an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Members of the Democratic Party have also pushed to include same-sex marriage in the party's official 2012 national platform. Supporters of that measure include lawmakers in Congress and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is chairman of the Democratic Convention in August.