Vice President Joe Biden made news Sunday morning when he endorsed same-sex marriage on NBC’s “Meet the Press” (see above). Here’s what he said:
David Gregory: Social policy. The president has said that his views on gay marriage, on same-sex marriage have evolved, but he’s opposed to it. You’re opposed to it. Have your views evolved?
VP Biden: I just think that 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? 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.
David Gregory: Is that what you believe now?
VP Biden: That’s what I believe.
David Gregory: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
VP Biden: Look, I’m 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 are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. Quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.
To date, this is the highest Obama administration official to support same-sex marriage. A few reflections on this news:
1. Vice President Biden’s standard for defining marriage is morally unserious. Is America ready to define marriage simply by “who do you love” and “will you be loyal” to them? There are already a host of polygamists who are arguing in favor of polygamous marriages based precisely on these grounds. Couldn’t the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) use the same rationale to make their case? I am not saying that all or most gay marriage supporters endorse polygamy or the aims of NAMBLA. I am saying that while gay marriage advocates do a great job of deconstructing marriage, they have done a very poor job of defining what they want it to be. “Who do you love” and “will you be loyal” cannot stand by themselves to define the essence of marriage. Vice President Biden whiffed it on this one.
2. It is very unlikely that Vice President Biden’s remarks were unplanned. President Obama is trying to win reelection. To do that he needs the support of his base, including homosexual activists who have contributed heavily to his campaign. He also needs not to alienate swing voters in places like Virginia and North Carolina, many of whom oppose same sex marriage. In other words, if he wants to be reelected, he has to appear to support gay marriage to one group of voters while pretending to oppose it to another group of voters. The way he’s executing this strategy is by claiming that he’s “evolving” on the issue while sending out his Vice President to speak in favor of it. If that approach sounds cynical to you, that’s because it is.
3. At this point, the President’s statements on this issue have gone past the point of absurd. In his policies and public statements, everything he says and does would seem to favor the gay rights agenda in general and gay marriage in particular. Most notably, he calls the Defense of Marriage Act “unconstitutional” and has directed his justice department not to enforce this law. At the same time, he will not openly endorse gay marriage in so many words, though he says his views are “evolving.” What gives? Is he for it or against it?
There is a reason that we saw this headline from New York Magazine last year: “President Obama Won’t Say If He’ll Stop Pretending to Oppose Gay Marriage Before the Election.” Chris Cilliza of The Washington Post says it this way:
There’s also the matter of the campaign next year… Obama risks losing the support of at least some of his base by embracing gay marriage. The black and Latino communities remain steadfastly anti-gay marriage, and high turnout among both of those populations was a big reason Obama did so well in 2008… Even as gay marriage has gotten significanly more popular in the intervening years, it remains a risky proposition (no pun intended) with black and Latino voters, and Obama needs them in 2012.
There is a take-away here for supporters of traditional marriage but who otherwise favor progressive policies and Democratic candidates. The President appears to be angling for your vote. He reads the polls and knows that he risks losing you if he comes out openly in favor of gay marriage. That is why you are unlikely to see him lay his cards on the table until after he wins the 2012 election. It appears that he made a political calculation and that he’s saving the announcement until after the potential for political damage is past.
If there’s still anyone out there who is thinking that the President is with them in opposing gay marriage, think again. There is more than enough evidence that he is not. In fact, I think you can expect President Obama’s evolution to come to an abrupt end on Wednesday, November 7, 2012.