At the weekend Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States of America, became the highest ranking politician in the country to publicly come out in support for gay marriage. In an interview on NBC‘s Meet the Press the Vice President said ‘Iam absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying woman 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’
Now Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary, has also come out in support of gay marriage. Duncan confirmed his support for marriage equality during an interview on MSNBC. When asked whether he believed gay and lesbian couples should have the right to legally marry Duncan replied ‘Yes I do’.
President Obama has so far, during the tenure of his presidency, remained mostly silent on the issue of gay marriage. Obama’s only real statement on the issue so far has been that his views on marriage equality were ‘evolving’. While some commentators believe Biden and Duncan’s endorsement of gay marriage are signs of a shift in attitude by the Obama administration it seems unlikely the President would risk endorsing a potentially controversial issue such as marriage equality with elections due to take place later this month.
While there are states in America where gay marriage has been legalised (New York, Iowa) marriage equality is an issue that deeply divides public opinion. The Republican party and more conservative elements in America are opposed to marriage equality and some even want an amendment to the constitution banning gay marriages completely. As Presidential elections are due to take place in a matter of months it seems unlikely Obama would back any policies which would his political rivals enough ammunition to attack him with.
However, should Obama win the Presidential elections later this year its entirely possible his second term will see a considerable shift towards marriage equality on a Federal level instead of state level.
[Written by Martha Kirkpatrick, LGBT editor]