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Biden says repeal of ‘don’t ask’ will pave way for gay marriage

By Laurie Kellman
Associated Press / December 25, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden predicted yesterday that the evolution in thinking that will soon permit gays to serve openly in the military eventually will bring about a national consensus for same-sex marriage.

Changes in attitudes among military leaders, servicemembers, and the public allowed the repeal by Congress of the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy, Biden noted in a nationally broadcast interview on Christmas Eve.

“I think the country’s evolving,’’ he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.’’ And I think you’re going to see, you know, the next effort is probably going to be to deal with [the Defense of Marriage Act]. He said he agreed with President Obama that his position on gay marriage is “evolving.’’

Gay marriage is legal in a handful of states, mostly in the Northeast and in Iowa. Obama recently said his feelings on gay marriage were in a state of transition. But he also said he still believes in allowing strong civil unions that provide certain protections and legal rights that married couples have.

Obama said he is wrestling with whether gay couples should have the right to marry, now that the change in the law will allow them to serve openly in combat.

Presidents in recent years have struggled with this issue. President Clinton developed the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy for the military, and Obama promised repeatedly in his 2008 campaign for the presidency that his administration would have a more supportive attitude toward gays.

But gay-rights groups have said frequently they have been disappointed with the administration’s performance on this issue.

The question about same-sex marriage came at Obama’s news conference Wednesday, just hours after he signed landmark legislation repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

The law ends the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy that forced gays to hide their sexual orientation or face dismissal. Before that, there was an outright ban on service by gays in the military.

But in letters to the troops after the new bill was signed into law, the four military service chiefs warned that the ban was still in place and that implementing the policy change in full was still months away.

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