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UPDATE: A new poll out Tuesday on the issue of same-sex marriage paints a picture of a sharply divided electorate.
A Gallup survey found that 50 percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to wed, while 48 percent opposite it. The level of support is actually down slightly from 53 percent in last year's poll but, as Politico notes, represents only the second year in Gallup's history that at least half of respondents have backed gay marriage.
The issue is particularly polarizing along party lines with 65 percent of Democrats supporting legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with only 22 percent of Republicans who do so. Perhaps a particularly important takeaway given the mounting political pressure on President Obama from the left, however, was that 57 percent of independents said gay marriage should be legal. You can read more from the results here.
The latest poll numbers come during a spike in national attention on the issue of gay marriage. In addition to recent comments from Joe Biden supporting gay rights, the issue of same-sex marriages has taken center stage in North Carolina, where voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of an amendment banning gay marriage. Reuters reports that based on recent local polling, it appears as though the amendment will pass. [For more on the NC vote, you can read Slate's Will Saletan here on the biblical fear-mongering that is going on in the Tar Heel State.]
Monday, May 7:The White House is still officially holding the company line on same-sex marriage, but that's not stopping some high-profile members of the Obama administration from coming out in support of allowing gays and lesbians to wed.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan made his position clear on Monday morning, one day after Vice President Joe Biden made waves by declaring that he is "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage.
While on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Monday, Duncan was asked directly whether he thinks gay couples should be able to marry. His response: "Yes, I do." Duncan added that he'd never before been asked that question publicly.
Duncan's declaration came as the Obama administration was doing its best to separate official administration policy from his No. 2's beliefs. Sunday afternoon, the vice president's office released a statement saying that Biden's views on gay marriage, like the president's, were "evolving."
As Politico reports, gay rights advocates have already rallied behind Duncan's statement, noting that he is now the third member of the president's administration to publicly support gay marriage. The first was Housing and Urban Development chief Shaun Donovan.
Sunday, May 6: On Meet the Press Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said he is “absolutely comfortable” with gay couples having the same rights as heterosexual couples. His comments amounted to “the strongest so far from within the White House” in support of marriage equality, notes Politico.
“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 and women marrying another 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,” Biden said. The vice president added that more people are seeing the issue as a “simple proposition” that boils down to “who do you love?”
Technically, Biden did not advance the administration’s position on the issue. President Obama has long said his views on marriage equality are “evolving.” But his words at least suggest the issue is discussed in the White House, notes the Los Angeles Times.
The administration quickly worked to make sure no one tried to interpret too much into Biden’s words. Top strategist David Axelrod downplayed the issue, writing on Twitter that the president has long said all married couples should have the same rights. The vice president’s office also issued a statement early Sunday afternoon, insisting that Biden’s words were perfectly consistent with the administration’s view, reports ABC News. “The Vice President was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue, after meeting so many committed couples and families in this country,” read the statement.