Big Gay Biden

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 7 2012 9:30 AM

Big Gay Biden

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Vice President Joseph R. Biden

AFP/Getty.

Activism has a shift stick with one mode: Accelerate. Vice President Biden looked to be endorsing gay marriage on Meet the Press. Pro-gay marriage groups thanked him. Amanda Terkel explains what happened next. (You'll notice that the entire affair happened in tossed-off tweets.)

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

On Twitter, top Obama political adviser David Axelrod said, "What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS's position."
... "David Axelrod is once again frantically trying to push gay stuff back in the closet. This is really quite ludicrous," tweeted Michelangelo Signorile, host of The Michelangelo Signorile Show on Sirius XM and editor-at-large of The Huffington Post's Gay Voices.
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To the transcript!

BIDEN: [M]ore and more Americans become (sic) 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...
GREGORY: And you're comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
BIDEN: 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.

Some context: The press does not cover amorphous issues. It covers controversy -- spats, slams, "going nuclear," stuff like that. And in the last year, pro-gay marriage activists have learned that you can get Democrats in relatively high places to endorse the cause. The Huffington Post (Terkel in particular) has done its part with stories about Democrats who'll have roles at the Charlotte convention coming out for a "freedom to marry" platform. These stories up the likelihood of Democrats being asked about gay marriage. Thus: Biden and "men marrying men, women marrying women."

Signorele is right: It's ludicrous, the way this plays itself out. Does anyone doubt that Obama's "evolving" gay marriage views are a ruse? Anyone? If Obama's uncomfortable with gay marriage, why is his DOJ declining to defend the Defense of Marriage Act? If it's realpolitik, it makes sense -- the president politicizes any issue he talks about. To legalize gay marriage in New York, Andrew Cuomo needed Republican senators to get behind his bill. Barack Obama's endorsement wouldn't have moved them.

So why focus on Obama? One reason: It's tough to beat gay marriage bans if non-white Democrats keep supporting them. All discussions of gay marriage happen in the penumbra of Proposition 8, which passed with black Democratic support as Barack Obama was winning California by the biggest landslide for any Democrat since 1936. In 36 hours, it's likely that North Carolina will pass yet another restrictive amendment against gay marriage -- with black support.

How do you respond? You try and shame the president into admitting what he said in 1996 that he believed. You grind him down by getting his colleagues to support gay marriage. It's a top-down strategy, a compelling distraction, but it's probably less related to the legalization of gay marriage than it seems.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics