Sunday, May 06, 2012

Biden backs marriage equality

Well, who knew the vice president would actually make some news -- and, in my view, in a good way -- on Meet the Press today, coming out in support of same-sex marriage:

GREGORY: Have your views evolved?

BIDEN: The good news is that as more and more Americans come 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 what all marriages at their root are about. Whether they are marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals. [...]

GREGORY: 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 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. [...] I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done so far. People fear that is different and now they're beginning to understand.

Given President Obama's dithering on this issue, the White House may wish Biden hadn't made news like this, but... good for Vice President Biden. His views have evidently evolved, he's right that this is fundamentally about love and the right to be in loving relationships, and he's right as well about how the culture has changed, as reflected by, and indeed driven by, progressive TV shows like Will & Grace. And of course he's also right that opposition to same-sex marriage is driven by fear, fear of difference and its manifestation as bigotry.

It's good, too, that Biden didn't just say that civil unions for gays and lesbians are the appropriate alternative to marriage, a frequent cop-out. He defended same-sex marriage -- the same institution with the same name for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

My view, expressed here before, is that there should be either marriage for both or marriage for neither. Which is to say, you either legalize same-sex marriage or for legal purposes you do away with calling it marriage altogether, replace state-sanctioned "marriages" with "civil unions." I'd be fine with the latter option, leaving marriage as a strictly religious matter.

But of course "marriage" is a deeply established term and likely isn't going away anytime soon. So for now the struggle is for the universal legalization of same-sex marriage.

The president may not quite know what he wants, or at least isn't willing to say what he wants for fear of being politically offensive by taking a stand that isn't overwhelming popular (even if it's becoming more and more popular all the time), and this may still be holding a lot of people back, but at least the vice president has embraced the justice of marriage equality. For that, he deserves our appreciation and applause.

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