Christmas came early for gay rights advocates when Congress repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy last week, and President Obama signed it into law on Wednesday. The administration’s comments since the bill-signing, however, are providing even more hopeful signs that full equality will continue to make progress in the United States.
In a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama sounded a hopeful tone on LGBT rights. Though he has maintained that he favors civil unions but opposes same-sex marriage, Obama told reporters that his views on the subject “are constantly evolving” and it is an issue he will “continue to wrestle with going forward.” In an interview with The Advocate, Obama said he “strongly supports” repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which permits states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state. He also called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination against employees due to their sexual orientation.
Now, Vice President Biden is moving the administration’s stance even further. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos this morning, Biden declared that gay marriage is inevitable in the United States:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You cited earlier that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the president signed that. In his press conference afterward, he also dealt with the issue of gay marriage. It was remarkable, he actually said that his position was evolving, this is something he really struggles with. Where are you on that these days?
BIDEN: I think the country is evolving. I think there’s an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage. That is my view. But this is the president’s policy. But it is evolving. I think the country is evolving. I remember the first time he met with the Joint Chiefs, I was with him. He said, “gentleman, I want you to prepare now. I want to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And so he prepared the ground so that it was so widely accepted as it is today by the military. And I think the same thing is happening across the country with regard to the issue of marriage.
Watch it (beginning at 5:36):
Biden’s belief that the country is evolving on same-sex marriage is backed up by the polls. Political statistician Nate Silver crunched the numbers and found that approval of gay marriage is shifting at an “accelerated pace.” Indeed, a CNN poll in August found an outright majority of Americans support same-sex marriage (though most polls find support currently in the mid-40s).
Many pundits view Obama and Biden’s recent comments on gay rights as the administration preparing for an eventual about-face on same-sex marriage. Politico’s Jonathan Martin tweeted on Wednesday, “Obama on gay marriage: ‘I struggle with this.’ Does anyone doubt that if he wins 2nd term, he’ll eventually flip?” Similarly, Stephanopoulos argued after Obama’s press conference, “[gay marriage] is something that he’s clearly laying the groundwork to move on.”