Tuesday 19 September 2017

Biden stirs controversy by backing same-sex marriage

Peter Foster in Washington

AMERICAN vice-president Joe Biden reignited the controversy over gay marriage yesterday, accusing Republicans of being "stuck in the 1950s" on moral and social issues, and proclaiming himself "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriages.

However, as he waded into one of the most divisive topics of the forthcoming US general election, Mr Biden stopped short of giving full backing to gay marriage, revealing his own party's confusion and uncertainty on the issue.

"I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties," he said in a television interview.

His remarks came as the Obama administration continued to walk a political tightrope over same-sex marriages, with Barack Obama's own position on the issue said by aides to be "evolving".

In a sign of how sensitive an issue it is for Mr Obama's campaign strategists, gay rights groups initially took Mr Biden's words on NBC's 'Meet the Press' as a significant step towards full endorsement, only for senior Obama aides to say the position remained unchanged.

David Axelrod, the campaign's chief strategist, said on Twitter that Mr Biden merely "precisely" stated Mr Obama's position "that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights".

Even though he stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, Mr Biden said he believed attitudes in the US were changing, crediting the television sitcom 'Will & Grace' -- whose lead character is a gay lawyer in New York -- for breaking down prejudice.

Closet

However, liberal groups chided the administration for continuing to fail to take a clear position on the issue. "The campaign shouldn't force Biden's comments back into the closet, but should instead embrace the growing popular support for the freedom to marry," said Winnie Stachelberg of the liberal Centre for American Progress.

The Obama administration, which has major donors among the gay and lesbian lobby groups, has equivocated on gay marriage to avoid alienating socially conservative and religious voters.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Biden also revealed the election campaign's worst-kept secret -- that he will be running alongside Mr Obama in the autumn. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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