Gay activists are stepping up their pressure on President Obama to endorse gay marriage, and administration officials may be starting to line up. But as the president remains silent on the issue the chairman of the Republican National Committee argues that Obama is playing games.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, appearing on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" Monday, reiterated that Mitt Romney and the GOP believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, and went after President Obama for his squishy position on the issue.
"I swear to you, I still can't figure out what Stephanie [Cutter, Obama campaign deputy manager], where her position is," said Priebus. "And the president's position on the issue to me, it's not so much the issue that is as important as watching how the president is trying to play this game. They want to have everything. They want the vice president out there nuancing the issue, fully embracing gay marriage. Then they march out Arne Duncan and embrace gay marriage."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan expressed support for gay marriage Monday morning on MSNBC.
Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has let his position on homosexual marriage and rights be known in a number of ways.
He has instructed the Attorney General not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, has reversed the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" edict that the military has followed for years, challenged California's proposition 8 in court, and publicly stated through his spokespersons that he opposes the marriage amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota.
But the president's words have not yet caught up with his actions because when directly asked about his support for same-sex marriage, his latest response has been that he is "evolving."
Gay rights activists are starting to put even more pressure on the Obama administration.
"It's not enough to be against gay marriage," Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson told Politico. "The president needs to be forthrightly for the freedom to marry."
"It is a thin but stark line between being against discrimination and for equality," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in the same Politico story. "It is very noticeable to same-sex couples that he has not clearly stated his support for our lives and our families."
One by one, senior level cabinet officials have come out in favor of gay marriage – a bold move for any top-level official unless given the green light from the White House.
"Do I think they have the go-ahead to speak on gay marriage from President Obama? You bet they do," said a former White House staffer who served in the Clinton administration but spoke on the condition they not be identified.
"It would be political suicide for a cabinet official or senior staffer to openly discuss a controversial issue without clearance directly from the President of the Chief of Staff. What seems apparent me is they are being asked to speak up so the President doesn't have to. It's all a game of high-stakes poker with a big jackpot in the middle of the table."
The issue surfaced once again on Sunday when Vice President Biden appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and indicated he was comfortable with same-sex marriage after David Gregory asked Biden if his position on gay marriage – like Obama's – is "evolving?"
"I am vice president of the United States of America," Biden confirmed. "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."
But Biden never would go as far as to confirm whether or not he or the president would publicly and verbally endorse same-sex marriage in a second term. "Well, I-I-I can't speak to that. I-I-I don't know the answer to that."
Hours later while appearing on MSNBC early Monday morning, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he "unequivocally" supports gay marriage. Asked if he thought gay couples should be able to legally marry, he responded: "Yes, I do."
Duncan and Biden's statements drew an immediate reaction from Joe Solmonese of The Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, in a statement Monday morning.
"Arne Duncan joins Joe Biden now in embracing civil marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples," said Solmonese in his statement. "There's no doubt in my mind that the president shares these values and that's why it's time for him to speak out in favor of marriage equality as well."
Last November, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan expressed his support for same-sex marriage.
Contrary to Obama's senior officials' support of same-sex marriage, the latest Public Policy Polling numbers indicate that voters in North Carolina will approve an amendment on Tuesday that will define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Of those polled by the Democratic leaning firm, 55 percent said they will support the amendment while only 39 percent indicated they would vote no.