Vice President Joe Biden said that he is "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage during an interview with David Gregory on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
"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," Biden told Gregory, MSNBC reported. "And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction beyond that."
Biden's comments are the strongest statement from the White House on the subject of same-sex marriage so far, Politico reported. However, while the Vice President is the highest-ranking official to openly support gay marriage, he was clear that Obama "sets the policy" as far as the laws are concerned.
President Obama supports civil unions, but according to Politico, advocates of gay marriage have pushed him to take a stronger public stance.
"There’s growing frustration with Obama’s reluctance to embrace gay marriage — especially among supporters who believe that the president personally supports them, but is holding off saying so for political reasons," wrote Politico's Donovan Slack.
Obama has indictated that his thoughts on gay marriage are “evolving," the Los Angeles Times reported, and Biden's statements on the subject have given some hope that the topic is at least being considered at the White House.
"I'm grateful that the vice president of the United States is now publically supporting marriage equality and I hope very soon the president and the rest of our leaders, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, will fall in line with the vice president," Chad Griffin, a gay rights supporter and a member of the Obama campaign's national finance committee, told the Associated Press.
Biden's office said Sunday after the interview aired that the Vice President's comments were not an endorsement of gay marriage, but "simply a reaffirmation of his belief that same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections as all Americans," according to the AP.
“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, a devout Catholic, said. “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.”
Biden's comments come amid a slew of gay rights bills being debated at the state level across the country. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in six states and Washington D.C., and has been passed by Maryland and Washington state, pending referendums in November, Politico reported.
November will also see a vote to legalize gay marriage in Maine as wells as referendums to ban gay marriage in North Carolina and Minnesota. North Carolina's "Amendment One" will be decided on Tuesday.