- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2012

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, saying a canceled NBC sitcom “educated” the American people, said Sunday he is “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage — but wouldn’t say whether President Obama would back such unions in a second term.

“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,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The vice president pointed out that the country’s attitudes on gays are “evolving” — and Mr. Biden credits a television sitcom.

“I think ‘Will & Grace’ probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far,” he said. “This is evolving.”

But asked whether the Obama administration would officially support same-sex unions in a second term, Mr. Biden said, “I can’t speak to that.”

“Will & Grace,” which aired from 1998 to 2006, was one of the first major-network programs to feature a gay person as one of the principal characters.

Mr. Obama has said publicly he opposes gay marriage, but has also said his personal views on the issue are “evolving.”

Gay-rights activists and many Democrats have urged the president to support a same-sex marriage plank in the Democratic Party’s platform at this summer’s convention.

Many gay rights groups took Mr. Biden’s comments Sunday as a sign the administration may be ready for a shift on gay marriage.

The Associated Press reported that Chad Griffin, a gay rights supporter and a member of the Obama campaign’s national finance committee, said: “I’m grateful that the vice president of the United States is now publicly supporting marriage equality and I hope very soon the president and the rest of our leaders, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, will fall in line.”

Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also said his group was encouraged by Mr. Biden’s comments and called on the president to speak out for “full marriage equality” for same-sex couples.

But after the interview Sunday, administration officials appeared to walk back the vice president’s comments, with a statement from Mr. Biden’s office that his comments were not an endorsement of gay marriage and a tweet from Obama advisor David Axelrod that Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama share the same position, that all married couples should have the same rights.

That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing, who praised Mr. Biden on Twitter: “I’m thrilled Biden has come out in support of gay marriage and am beyond proud of what he said.”

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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