WASHINGTON -- During a Sunday morning appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden said he's "comfortable" with full marriage equality and supports equal rights for same-sex couples -- an unequivocal evolution for the Obama administration's No. 2.
When asked by host David Gregory about his views on the issue, Biden responded, "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."
Biden declined to speculate on whether President Obama will formally support marriage equality in his second term, should he be reelected.
Though the vice president's Sunday remarks are his most progressive on the issue, in December 2010 he had also spoke of marriage equality's growing inevitability in the United States.
"I think there is an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage," Biden said then in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America. During that appearance, as with Sunday's Meet the Press interview, he did not indicate an official policy change in the administration.
The full exchange from Sunday morning's MTP broadcast:
David Gregory: You raise social policy. I'm curious. You know, 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?
Vice President Biden: Look, I just think -- the good news is that as more and more Americans become 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? 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.
Is that what you believe now? Are you--
That's what I believe.
And you're comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
I-- look, 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.
In a second term, will this administration come out behind same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage?
Well, I-- I can't speak to that. I--I don't know the answer to that. But I can tell you--
It sounds like you'd like to see it happen. If that's what the president would get--
Well, the president continues to fight, whether it's Don't Ask, Don't Tell or whether it is making sure, across the board, that you cannot discriminate. Look-- look the executive orders he's put in place. Any hospital that gets federal funding, which is almost all of them, they can't deny a partner from being able to have access to their partner who's ill or making the call on whether or not they-- you know-- it's just-- this is evolving.
And by the way, my measure, David, and I take a look at when things really begin to change, is when the social culture changes. 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. They're beginning to understand that this as a base.
I was with-- speaking to a group of gay leaders in Los Angeles two weeks ago. And one gentleman looked at me in the question period and said, "Let me ask you, how do you feel about us?" And I had just walked into the back door of this gay couple and they're with their two adopted children. And I turned to the man who owned the house. I said, "What did I do when I walked in?" He said, "You walked right to my children. They were seven and five, giving you flowers." And I said, "I wish every American could see the look of love those kids had in their eyes for you guys. And they wouldn't have any doubt about what this is about."