Saturday, April 06, 2013

Now There Are 4: 2 Red-State Senators Embrace Marriage Equality

Sen. Heitkamp (D-ND)   Sen. Donnelly (D-IN)
The rate at which Senators are endorsing marriage equality for same-sex couples is a bit dizzying. Last Saturday I blogged about the 9 Democratic Senators who had not endorsed marriage equality, and primarily paid my attention to the Senators from blue states who had not taken the plunge, reserving my most scorn for Delaware's Tom Carper, noting that majority of his constituents supported marriage equality, according to recent polls.

In the last 7 days, 6 Senators have issued statements supporting marriage equality, and many of these have not been from the "easy-to-get" categories. Carper joined the "equality caucus" on Tuesday April 2nd, the same day that Republican Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois did. But, amazingly, this was two days after Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, generally considered one of the most socially conservative members of the Democratic caucus, had announced his support for marriage.

Just yesterday, I tried to predict who would the next Senators to endorse marriage equality, noting there were still 6 Democratic Senators who had not done so at that time, but that they were all from red states. Since then, two of those Red-State Democratic Senators have endorsed marriage equality with public statements.

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) said:
“In speaking with North Dakotans from every corner of our great state, and much personal reflection, I have concluded the federal government should no longer discriminate against people who want to make lifelong, loving commitments to each other or interfere in personal, private, and intimate relationships.  I view the ability of anyone to marry as a logical extension of this belief. The makeup of families is changing, but the importance of family is enduring.” 
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said:
“In recent years, our country has been involved in an important discussion on the issue of marriage equality. While serving in the House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to act on a core belief of mine: we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans. I voted to repeal ‘don't ask, don't tell’ and was an original supporter of the bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexual orientation. It is also for that reason that I oppose amending either Indiana’s or our nation’s constitution to enshrine in those documents an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ instead of a ‘we.’ With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all.”
Both Donnelly and Heitkamp are freshman Senators from conservative states who are not up for re-election until 2018. The four remaining Democratic Senators who have not (yet) endorsed marriage equality are Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who has announced that he will not face the voters again (and thus has nothing to lose if he wants to support marriage equality); Joe Manchin of West Virginia (who just got re-elected to a full 6-year term in November 2012); Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas (who are both running for re-election in 2014).

The most interesting question now is which members of the Republican caucus will join the marriage equality caucus. According to the Washington Post's The Fix blog, there are a number of Republicans who represent blue states who may consider endorsing marriage equality soon:

  1. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) 
  2. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) 
  3. Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) 
  4. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) 
  5. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) 
  6. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) 
  7. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) 
  8. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) 
  9. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
In addition to these nine Blue-state Republican Senators, the most likely red-state Republican senator to endorse marriage equality is Deb Fisher (R-Nebraska) (because she's female and because she was just elected to a full term in November 2012).

Currently there are only two Republican Senators who support marriage equality, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), who (not coincidentally) both represent blue states.

Interestingly, former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) announced on Friday that she supports marriage equality. I wonder whether her "Maine twin" will follow suit someday soon?

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