Another Obama Official Speaks Out For Same-Sex Marriage

By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown
By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown
(AP Photo/Benjamin Sklar)

(AP Photo/Benjamin Sklar)

(CNN) – Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday became the latest Obama administration official to express support for same-sex marriage, echoing similar statements made by Vice President Joe Biden the previous day.

Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," if he supports individuals of the same gender to legally wed, Duncan replied: "Yes, I do."

"I don't think I've ever been asked publicly," Duncan added.

On Sunday, Biden caused a stir when he said he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage, going further in stating his views than President Barack Obama has done in the past.

The president, who once opposed same-sex marriage, has taken the official position that his stance on the issue is "evolving." He has hinted at fundraisers that there is more work to be done, leading many in the LGBT community to believe the president may work to legalize same-sex marriage on the national level under a second term.

Some on Twitter seized on the vice president's words Sunday to question whether the White House was signaling a change in position on the issue ahead of the election.

But the White House tried to shut down speculation that the administration's position on gay marriage has "evolved" when a spokesperson for the vice president put out a statement after the interview, saying Biden's words mirrored-not advanced-the president's position.

"Vice President Biden was echoing the President's position: 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," the statement read.

Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod on Monday said Biden's comment did not represent a change in policy for the administration. He expressed a similar sentiment Sunday via Twitter.

"I think they were entirely consistent with the president's position," Axelrod said on a conference call with reporters. "A couple who are married, whether they're gay or heterosexual, are entitled to the same rights and very same liberties."

According to the latest CNN/ORC International Poll, a majority of Americans (53%) believe marriages between gay or lesbian couples should be recognized as valid, while 45% disagree with the notion.

The issue is also making news this week in North Carolina, where voters will cast their ballots Tuesday on an initiative that would add a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and partnerships.

High-profile figures have added their voices to the debate. Evangelist Billy Graham made a rare public statement endorsing the measure, while former President Bill Clinton, who used to oppose same-sex marriage, recorded robo calls to half a million voters urging them to vote against the initiative.

Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group, quickly put out a statement Monday on Duncan's comments.

"Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's announcement this morning adds him to the drumbeat of Obama Administration members coming out in support of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples," the group's founder, Evan Wolfson, said in a statement

He also pointed to Biden, Clinton, former Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney, as well as Laura Bush, as examples of high-profile Democrats and Republicans in support of same-sex marriage.

"Secretary Duncan knows that loving and committed gay couples seek the freedom to marry for the same mix of reasons as other couples: to make a vow to one another, to share life with the person they love, and to protect their families," Wolfson said.

– CNN's Jessica Yellin, Ashley Killough and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.


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