While President Obama had made a point of pushing through a repeal of ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ allowing gays to serve openly in the military, he had stopped short of the more controversial step of endorsing gay marriage — until, that is, Joe Biden forced his hand. In a May 2012 appearance on “Meet the Press,” the Vice President said:
“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”
Biden’s remarks prompted a White House statement clarifying that he was not articulating an official change in policy. (Biden himself tried to make clear that it was up to the president to decide such matters.) But gay activists took his comments as an opportunity to ramp up pressure on the President to take a firmer stance on the issue before the election.
Three days later, Obama officially clarified his position during a sit-down interview with Robin Roberts, becoming the first sitting president in U.S. history to endorse gay marriage.
“…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.”
As preempted (or prompted) by Biden as it was, it was a historic announcement.