(Photo: Reuters/Tim Chong)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden recently reiterated his support for same-sex marriage at an annual fundraising event for Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), calling same-sex marriage the "issue of our day."
While speaking at Harkin's annual steak–fry fundraiser in Indianola, Iowa on Sunday, Biden told the crowd of Harkin supporters: "A lot of people criticized me for speaking out, not long ago, about gay marriage. I could not remain silent any more."
Biden was referencing a 2012 "Meet the Press" interview with host David Gregory, when the vice president said he is "absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women" are entitled to the same legal status and benefits as heterosexual couples.
"It's time we stopped talking. It's the civil rights of our day. It's the issue of our day," Biden said Sunday to a response of applause and cheers from the crowd.
"That's why the president eliminated DOMA, Don't Ask, Dont' Tell. That's why he came out against this notion that somehow marriage cannot be recognized in one state and denied in another. And when it comes to the rights of - you know the president's phrase, and I'll paraphrase this slightly - that everybody in America should have the dignity to choose who they love and marry who they choose. He believes that but not just because it's a human right because it's all about treating everyone with dignity," Biden added.
Biden was one of the first officials of the Obama administration to come out in support of same-sex marriage when he announced his support in the May 2012 "Meet the Press" interview. Shortly after, President Barack Obama told ABC News that he too supported same-sex marriage: "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
Critics argued that Biden announced his support for same-sex marriage before Obama to test the public's reaction.
This issue of same-sex marriage is currently being debated in several states in the U.S. In June, the country's Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, awarding same-sex couples the same tax, health and retirement benefits that are available to married heterosexual couples. The court did not address same-sex marriage on a state-by-state level, and therefore individual lawsuits have been filed in several states by pro-gay marriage groups.
New Mexico's Supreme Court will determine once and for all if same-sex marriage is legal in the state after several counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in recent weeks, arguing that because the state does not explicitly forbid same-sex marriage, their actions are legal. Similarly, a Pennsylvania judge recently ordered the county clerk of Montgomery County to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses, arguing that he did not have the authority to subvert the state law banning same-sex marriage.
In a separate lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania's 1996 statute banning same-sex marriage, arguing it is unconstitutional. Attorney General Kathleen Kane then announced that she would not be defending the statute in courts because she is pro-gay marriage, passing the responsibility on to the office of Gov. Tom Corbett, who has voiced his opposition for same-sex marriage.
The American Civil Liberties Union has also filed lawsuits in Virginia and North Carolina contesting the state's bans on same-sex marriage. The ACLU said in a July press release that the legal organization's post-DOMA strategy is to have same-sex marriage legalized in as many states as possible through lawsuits contesting gay marriage bans.