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Education Secretary Arne Duncan endorses gay marriage. Is Obama cornered? (+video)

Now, both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary Duncan have spoken up for gay marriage, but Obama is holding back. That could be a political calculation, but gay activists are frustrated.

By Staff writer / May 7, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Mellon Auditorium in Washington in this file photo.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

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Washington

Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined the chorus Monday in support of gay marriage, following Vice President Joe Biden’s statement Sunday on “Meet the Press” that he is “comfortable” with same-sex marriage.  

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When asked Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” if same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in the United States, Mr. Duncan said matter-of-factly, “Yes, I do.” He added that he didn’t think he’d ever been asked that question publicly.

President Obama has not voiced support for gay marriage, instead backing civil unions, though he has maintained for over a year that his views are “evolving.” Many Obama supporters assume that, in his heart, the president supports gay marriage, but is cautious about potential political risks, and therefore is waiting until after the fall election to openly change his view.  

But with two major surrogates expressing support in rapid succession, the walls appear to be closing in on the president. On Monday, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the former president and a co-chair of Mr. Obama's reelection campaign, boxed in the president further, saying that gay marriage should be a part of this year's Democratic Party platform.

Gay-rights activists called on the president to voice the support for same-sex marriage that they believe exists. 

“In supporting marriage equality, [Duncan] communicates to all students that they deserve an equal shot at the American dream of love, family, and equality,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a 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.”

On a conference call with reporters Monday, top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod held to the view put forth by aides to Mr. Biden after his comment:  that the vice president’s statement was “entirely consistent with the president’s position,” and that couples who are married, be they gay or heterosexual, are entitled to the same rights and liberties.

Mr. Axelrod also noted that the Obama administration has stopped defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. And he put the gay marriage issue in the context of the presidential race against Mitt Romney.  

“There couldn’t be a starker contrast on this issue than with Governor Romney, who has funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California and other places,” Axelrod said.

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