Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Being “against against-marriage”, but not for marriage equality is not the stuff of fierce advocacy. What VP Biden said on Meet the Press Sunday, however, did sound a bit fierce, even evolved, and something like leadership on an issue of full equality for LGBTs. Then the back-tracking began, and we returned to “evolving,” and election year strategizing.
Here’s what Biden said, via Pam’s Houseblend in response to the question “You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?”:
Look, … (t)he president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties.
He’s clear that in terms of policy, it’s Obama’s call. But what he states “comfort” with marriage between same-gender couples.
Both LGBT and media in general jumped on the remark. Then the WH, followed by Biden, started walking it back. First, David Axelrod, via Aravosis,
… wrote that what Biden said ‘that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights’ is ‘precisely’ the position of Obama.’
Wrong. Biden talked about the marriages of gays and lesbians being the same as heterosexual marriages.
Then from Biden’s office, also via Aravosis:
‘The Vice President was saying what the President has said previously – that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to rollback those rights. That’s why we stopped defending the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges and support legislation to repeal it. Beyond that, the Vice President was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue, after meeting so many committed couples and families in this country.’
“Roll back”? We’re talking about federal rights we of Queerdom don’t have. Opposing rolling back something that doesn’t exist is rather … lame. And un-evolved. And not so fierce.
Biden’s office also contacted MTP, illustrating the tangles of attempting to tweak what you said into something you didn’t say. Aravosis at AmericaBlogGay:
Chuck Todd said on Meet the Press that Biden’s office immediately contacted Todd and said that Biden was speaking only for himself. But that conflicts with Biden’s subsequent clarification that he was only talking generally about gay people not being discriminated against under the law, and not endorsing gay marriage, they were agreeing with the President’s past statements. But if Biden was agreeing with past Obama statements, his office wouldn’t need to say that Biden was just speaking for himself.
The evolving drama continues today. Via Think Progress:
This morning, Joe Scarborough and David Gregory mocked the White House’s efforts to push back against Vice President Joe Biden’s embrace of marriage equality … . Scarborough asked why the president’s rich gay donors ‘don’t just give to Dick Cheney because Dick Cheney supports gay marriage?’
And via AmericaBlogGay:
‘On Morning Joe, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan echoed Biden. Asked by TIME’s Mark Halperin whether he thinks same-sex couples should be legally allowed to marry, Duncan said flatly: ‘Yes I do.’
This is beginning to feel like we’re being played. Like Biden’s pro-marriage comments yesterday, and the White House pushback, were all some larger ploy to woo the gays further into the Obama camp before the election, while at the same time letting the President maintain his distance.
After yesterday’s walk-backing began, multiple LGBT organizations moved from encouraged to disappointed statements. This is one of the best I read, via Politico:
‘It’s not enough to be against against-marriage. The president needs to be forthrightly for the freedom to marry,’ said Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson, who’s helping lead the fight to get the marriage equality plank in the convention platform.
That platform effort, by the way, now includes the chairs of eleven state Democratic Parties. As Freedom To Marry notes, those states are “CA, NY, MA, MN, OR, TX, VT, WI, WA, NJ, & KS.”
Some of these have constitutional amendments banning “same-sex” marriage, and tomorrow, North Carolina voters will decide whether to join them. NC is the only state in the Southeast that hasn’t done that. Opponents of the measure have made huge efforts to defeat the amendment, but it appears it will pass, if by smaller margins than those in other states. Even that is a sign of progress, but it’s difficult to get excited about losing by smaller margins, and understandable to be disappointed by WH equivocating.
All of this is just a few days after the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group
… sought to intervene … in the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act and related laws brought by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network on behalf of LGB servicemembers and veterans and their spouses.
The Obama administration, as a part of its evolutionary process, declared they would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA, so the Republican House majority courageously took up the fight.
As for Obama / Biden’s latest evolving – devolving moment, three concluding remarks.
From Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress:
‘The campaign shouldn’t force Biden’s comments back into the closet … ’
I guess you could see this as yet another attempt to placate the LGBT community (i.e. open the gAyTM), or a hint that the President is about to tip-toe out of the closet, perhaps after the election. I don’t hold my breath for such things … .
And the last word to John Aravosis:
Dumb dumb dumb.
( Joe Biden photo via WhiteHouse.gov )