Nightly News | May 07, 2012
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to domestic politics. President Obama does not support gay marriage . And while his stand has been and remains an issue, it is a bigger issue now that Vice President Biden chose yesterday morning's broadcast of " Meet the Press " to voice his support of the issue. Then on MSNBC this morning, the president's education secretary did the same thing, and suddenly the White House spent the day knocking down an issue they were not planning to knock down today. Our chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is with us with more on this. Chuck , good evening. Good evening, Brian . Well, as you pointed out, today was supposed to be a continuation of the president's campaign kickoff for his second term. They've even debuted a TV ad that's reminiscent of Ronald Reagan 's famous " It's morning in America ." But it's that comment by the vice president on gay marriage that caught both the White House and the president's campaign a bit flat-footed.
Vice President JOE BIDEN: I am vice president of the United States of America.
TODD: It all started with Vice President Joe Biden on " Meet the Press ."
Vice Pres. BIDEN: I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying are entitled to the same exact rights, all the same civil rights , all the civil liberties . And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction.
TODD: Biden was more definitive than the president had been 18 months ago when Mr. Obama had last addressed the issue substantively.
President BARACK OBAMA: My feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. I personally am going to continue to wrestle with it going forward.
TODD: The apparent split sent aides of both men scrambling to clarify. Biden 's office put out a statement minutes after " Meet the Press " aired, simply stating what the president had said previously, that same-sex couples should not be denied rights. Adding, "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." Then this morning on " Morning Joe " on MSNBC , Education Secretary Arne Duncan was asked whether he supports gay marriage .
Secretary ARNE DUNCAN: Yes, I do.
Offscreen Voice: OK.
Mr. MARK HALPERIN: Have you ever said that publicly before?
Sec. DUNCAN: I don't know if I've ever been asked publicly.
TODD: Hours later, White House press secretary Jay Carney faced repeated questions about the president's position. All Carney would say is that the president is against a proposal on the North Carolina ballot tomorrow which would make gay marriage and civil unions unconstitutional in that state. So help me out here. He opposes bans on gay marriage , but he doesn't yet support gay marriage ?
Mr. JAY CARNEY: The record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. That is a position he has taken that precedes his taking a position in North Carolina . It's a position he's taken in other states where this has been an issue.
TODD: You know, we should point out, Brian , that the country is, if you will, evolving on this issue -- to borrow a phrase from the president. You know, in 2009 , when we polled on this issue on same-six marriage, nearly 50 percent said they were opposed to it, only 41 supported it. Well if you recall, remember just a couple of months ago in March we asked again, 49 percent said they supported gay marriage , just 40 percent opposed. So you see that shift
in public opinion. Brian: All right. Chuck Todd from the White House North Lawn tonight. Chuck , thanks.