Biden says public support for gay marriage 'inevitable'

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 24, 2010 

WASHINGTON-Attitudes toward same-sex marriage are "evolving," and a national consensus for gay marriage is inevitable, Vice President Joe Biden said Friday.

Biden gave a somewhat more optimistic view than President Barack Obama, who earlier this week told reporters: "I think this is something that we're going to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with, going forward."

Friday, Biden cited the administration's successful push to repeal the military's 17-year-old "don't ask don't tell" policy toward gays as a sign of the change in public attitudes. He saw the trend as leading to support of same-sex marriage.

"I think the country's evolving," he said in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America, "and I think there's an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage. That is my view. But this is the president's policy, but it is evolving. I think the country's evolving."

He discussed the change in military attitudes and recalled how Obama told military officials to prepare to end the "don't ask don't tell" policy. "I think the same thing is happening across the country with regard to the issue of marriage," he said.

Congress approved overturning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy last week with bipartisan support, and Obama signed the legislation Wednesday. The Pentagon is now studying how to implement the policy, which could take several months.

The Defense Department earlier this month reported that in an eight-month study of more than 115,000 military personnel, 70 percent said ending the ban on gays serving openly would have a positive or neutral impact.

Combat unit personnel were more skeptical, with 58 percent of Marines and 48 percent of Army respondents saying that ending the ban would have negative consequences. And a sizeable minority said repeal could affect morale and training and whether they would stay in the military. Marines voiced the loudest opposition, the survey found.

After the survey's release, a Pew Research Center poll of the American public found 59 percent of the public favored allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, with 23 percent opposed, down 4 percentage points from the previous month. Opposition has dropped 9 percentage points since March 2009, just after Obama took office.

The poll was conducted Dec. 1-5. Total survey sample was 1,500 people, and margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Finding consensus on gay marriage could take some time, despite Biden's optimism.

A Pew survey released in October, based on two polls taken over several months, found that 48 percent opposed allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry, while 42 percent were in favor. Still, a Pew analysis noted, "for the first time in 15 years, fewer than half oppose same-sex marriage."

About 6,500 people were surveyed. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Pew also found "the shift in opinion on same-sex marriage has been broad-based, occurring across many demographic, political and religious groups.

"Notably, pluralities of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics now favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally - the first time this has occurred in Pew Research Center surveys."

Obama himself was circumspect at his news conference Wednesday when asked about same sex marriage.

"At this point, what I've said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have," Obama said. "And I think that's the right thing to do."

"But I recognize that, from their perspective, that's not enough," he added.

ON THE WEB

Pew Center survey on attitudes toward gay rights

Pew December survey

Vice President Biden on gay rights

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