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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 29, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 13
Swing-state Democrats swing to equality
Section One
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Swing-state Democrats swing to equality

Six senators embrace same-sex marriage as Supreme Court hearings begin

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Six Democratic U.S. senators from swing states announced their support for marriage equality this week, in the hours before U.S. Supreme Court hearings began on Prop 8 and DOMA.

Claire McCaskill of Missouri led off the parade on March 25, posting a statement on her Tumblr page.

'I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love,' McCaskill wrote.

'While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry. My views on this subject have changed over time, but as many of my Gay and Lesbian friends, colleagues, and staff embrace long-term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality. Supporting marriage equality for Gay and Lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principles of liberty and equality.

'Good people disagree with me. On the other hand, my children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children.'

'EVOLVING' VIEWS
McCaskill was followed in short order by Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Mark Begich of Alaska.

'I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do,' Warner wrote on his Facebook page.

'Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on Gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone. I was proud to be the first Virginia governor to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT state workers. In 2010, I supported an end to the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, and earlier this month I signed an amicus brief urging the repeal of DOMA. I believe we should continue working to expand equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.'

'I believe that same-sex couples should be able to marry and should have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as any other married couple,' Begich said in a statement also issued March 25.

'Government should keep out of individuals' personal lives - if someone wants to marry someone they love, they should be able to. Alaskans are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives, our daily business, and in the way we manage our resources and economy.'

In a statement to ABC News, West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller also endorsed equality. Rockefeller was the only one of the six who was in Congress when DOMA passed in 1996, and at the time he voted for it.

GENERATIONAL SHIFT
'Like so many of my generation, my views on allowing Gay couples to marry have been challenged in recent years by a new, more open generation,' Rockefeller said.

'Churches and ministers should never have to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs, but the government shouldn't discriminate against people who want to marry just because of their gender. Younger people in West Virginia and even my own children have grown up in a much more equal society, and they rightly push us to question old assumptions - to think deeply about what it means for all Americans to be created equal. This has been a process for me, but at this point I think it's clear that DOMA is discriminatory. I'm against discrimination in all its forms, and I think we can move forward in our progress toward true equality by repealing DOMA.'

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana joined the crowd on March 26.

'Montanans believe in the right to make a good life for their families,' Tester said on Facebook. 'How they define a family should be their business and their business alone. I'm proud to support marriage equality because no one should be able to tell a Montanan or any American who they can love and who they can marry.'

'A COMPLEX ISSUE'
North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan checked in the next day.

'Marriage equality is a complex issue with strong feelings on both sides, and I have a great deal of respect for varying opinions on the issue,' she posted on Facebook.

'After much thought and prayer, I have come to my own personal conclusion that we shouldn't tell people who they can love or who they can marry. This wasn't a decision I came to overnight, like my Republican colleague Rob Portman expressed recently on his own viewpoint. Last year, I opposed [anti-Gay] Amendment One because I was concerned about the negative consequences it could have on North Carolina families and our economy. The fabric of North Carolina and what makes our state so special is our families and our common desire for a brighter future for our children. No matter what your family looks like, we all want the same thing for our families - happiness, health, prosperity, a bright future for our children and grandchildren.'

While the senators added to the political momentum building up for a reversal of DOMA by abandoning their previous skepticism about marriage rights for Gay and Lesbian couples, not all of them will have to deal with immediate political consequences. McCaskill and Tester won re-election last year and will not face voters again until 2018, and Rockefeller has already announced that his current term will be his last. But Warner, Begich, and Hagan, who were elected in 2008, will be up for re-election next year.

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What will the Supreme Court do now?
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America speaks: Rallies in Seattle and nationwide support hearings at SCOTUS
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