Vice President Joe Biden achieved a personal milestone on Monday when he served as an officiant at a wedding for the very first time. But the simple private ceremony, which celebrated the love between White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie, was also a significant moment for Catholics in America.
As a lifelong Catholic and the country’s first Catholic vice president, Biden’s participation in the ceremony was a poignant reminder of a shift within the American Catholic church toward a more accepting view of same-sex marriage.
While Catholic church leaders have consistently and vociferously denounced same-sex marriage, statistics show that many lay Catholics like Biden have a more nuanced view of church teachings on homosexuality and other matters involving family life. Based on polling conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 6 in 10 Catholics (58 percent) say they support same-sex marriage. Nearly half of Catholics (46 percent) think the Catholic Church should recognize same-sex marriages.
While it’s true that support for marriage equality is less likely among Catholics who attend Mass regularly, a look at youth views toward same-sex marriage could be indicative of where lay Catholic America is headed. In a 2014 Pew survey, 85 percent of self-identified Catholics between the ages of 18 and 29 said that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Younger Catholics are also more likely to believe that the Catholic Church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
The vice president’s views on gay and lesbian couples have shifted throughout the course of his life. Biden is the child of Irish-Catholic parents who attended Catholic schools as a child and even briefly considered becoming a priest. He’s a former supporter of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited same-sex marriage. But by 2012, he had stepped out in front of President Barack Obama on the matter, endorsing marriage equality in an appearance on “Meet The Press.”
“The good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition,” Biden said during the 2012 interview. “Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out what all marriages at their root are about.”