Education secretary says he supports same-sex marriage

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that he supports same-sex marriage, making him the second high-ranking Obama official to come out in support of it in the past 24 hours.

Speaking on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Monday, host Mark Halperin asked Duncan if he believed same-sex couples should be able to get legally married in the United States.

“Yes, I do,” Duncan replied.

Halperin then asked if this was the first time Duncan had made his view on the matter public.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been asked publicly,” Duncan responded.

On Sunday, Vice President Biden said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" that he supported same-sex couples having “the same exact rights” as heterosexual couples.

“I am vice president of the United States of America," Biden said. "The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women 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."

Many initially viewed Biden’s comments as the administration moving closer to fully embracing same-sex marriage, perhaps even incorporating it into the Democratic platform ahead of the party’s national convention in September.

But the White House quickly issued a response downplaying Biden’s comments, saying they were no different from previous remarks he has made on the issue.

"The vice president was saying what the president has said previously — that committed and loving same sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to roll back those rights," a spokesman for the vice president said. "That’s why we stopped defending the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges and support legislation to repeal it. Beyond that, the vice president was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue, after meeting so many committed couples and families in this country.”

President Obama does not support same-sex marriage, although he is in favor of civil unions. Obama has famously said that his views on the matter are “evolving.”

The Obama administration faces a delicate balancing act in keeping its progressive constituents happy on an issue the public seems ready to accept. Some of the president’s political advisers remain hesitant to commit gay marriage to the platform.