Thursday, June 26, 2014

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) Endorses Marriage Equality; 4th Sitting GOP Senator To Do So

Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins became the fourth sitting Republican Senator to endorse marriage equality on Wednesday. Collin, Republican of maine, joins her colleagues Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Collins told the Portland Press-Herald:
On Wednesday, however, her campaign issued a statement that many in the gay-rights community had expected much earlier from a lawmaker who is viewed as one of Congress’ friendliest Republicans on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. 
“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in the statement. “Today, same-sex couples can be legally married in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 44% of Americans live in a state where same-sex couples can be legally married, and I believe this number will only continue to grow.” 
Earlier Wednesday, Collins was endorsed once again by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization.
Many Democratic LGBT observers (like myself) are dismayed that HRC is endorsing a Republican who had not endorsed marriage equality yet when her opponent is someone who was a champion for marriage equality in Maine as head of the local chapter of the ACLU. Shana Bellows issued a statement in response to the news of the endorsement:
"I've been proud and very privileged to be a leader in the LGBT equality movement for many years. As executive director of the ACLU of Maine, I spent every day bringing Republicans and Democrats together to expand civil liberties and strengthen equal protection under the law. I believe in taking strong stances in favor of Constitutional protections and equal rights even when they're unpopular. Remaining silent on some of the biggest civil rights issues of our generation, even after the voters have spoken, isn't leadership, and it isn't how Maine became one of the most inclusive states in the country for LGBT rights. 
"My opponent, Republican Susan Collins, had the chance to speak up in favor of marriage equality in 2012 or any time in the previous decade. Two years after her constituents made their feelings known at the ballot box, she has refused to break her silence. I believe Mainers need, want and deserve more proactive representation on equal rights -- on allowing LGBT students to learn without fear of bullying, on applying for jobs and going to work without fear of discrimination, and on much more. I'm running for Senate to provide that proactive representation and to expand Constitutional protections for our LGBT community.
I understand that HRC feels like it needs to endorse Republican incumbents over Democratic challengers, but I disagree with the lack of political principle involved. The largest LGBT political organization in the country should make its endorsements based on which candidate actually has the best pro-LGBT record. By endorsing a Republican, HRC is endorsing someone who will vote for Mitch McConnell to be Senate Majority Leader, which will mean absolutely no legislative progress on LGBT rights while Republicans control the Senate.

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