President Obama, alongside Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, speaks… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday that he supports gay marriage rights, a declaration that came as President Obama's reelection campaign downplayed comments from Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday that some saw as an evolution in the administration's position.
Speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Duncan was asked, "Do you believe that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?"
The answer was simple and direct.
"Yes, I do."
Duncan's answer went further than Biden did Sunday, when he said he was "comfortable" with the idea of "men marrying men" and "women marrying women" having the same rights as heterosexual couples.
"Look, I just think that the good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about, it's a simple proposition: Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love?" Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And that's what people are finding out, is what all marriages at their root are about, whether they're marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals."
Obama himself has said he is still evolving in his view on gay marriage, having said in the 2008 campaign that he was opposed to it but supported civil unions.
The White House has let other administration officials be out front on the issue, while the president evolves.
In November, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said he was in favor gay marriage and suggested that the issue could be part of the agenda in the second term. "We've got more work to do in the Obama administration in a second term," Donovan told the Metro Weekly, a Washington newspaper. "Like marriage equality."
A month later Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a strong defense of gay rights in Geneva, saying "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." The White House backed up the message.
Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod, speaking to reporters on a conference call Monday morning, called Biden's comments "entirely consistent with the president's position, which is that couples who are married, whether they are gay or heterosexual couples, are entitled to the very same rights and very same liberties."
He added that "there couldn't be a starker contrast on this issue than with Gov. Romney, who has funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California and other places, who believes that we need a constitutional amendment banning the rights of gay couples to marry, and would take us backward, not forward."
Original source: Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he supports gay marriage