One after the other, Dem senators endorse same-sex marriage
March 27th, 2013
03:14 PM ET
2 years ago

One after the other, Dem senators endorse same-sex marriage

(CNN) - Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina on Wednesday became the latest Democratic senator to unveil support for same-sex marriage, saying on Facebook the "time has come."

"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," she wrote.

She joined a chorus of Democratic senators this week who rolled out support for same-sex marriage. The endorsements came as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases-the ban against same-sex marriage in California and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which excludes same-sex married couples from certain federal benefits.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia also backed same-sex marriage on Facebook this week, following Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who announced support on her Tumblr page Sunday night.

In addition, Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska endorsed the issue on Facebook, though the Human Rights Campaign, a group that advocates gay rights, notes that he was already considered a supporter.

Meanwhile, Sens. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Tim Johnson of South Dakota said this week they no longer support DOMA.

The sea change was also referenced in Wednesday's hearing at the Supreme Court.

"As far as I can tell, political figures are falling all over themselves to endorse your side of the case," Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, said to the lead attorney challenging DOMA, as he was trying to get a grasp on where the shift was coming from.

So, are these Democratic senators simply jumping on the proverbial bandwagon, or are they using the timing of the Supreme Court cases to roll out their support? Or, perhaps the slew of new poll numbers showing stronger support for same-sex marriage may be having an impact, and the senators don't want to seem behind the curve.

Jonathan Rauch, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said it can be all of the above.

"There's also conviction," he said. "Quite a number of these people have quietly supported same-sex marriage for a while and were waiting for a political moment when the issue had momentum."

How much of politics is at play, though? McCaskill and Tester are from states with large swaths of conservative voters, but they don't face re-election until 2018, giving them plenty of time to fall in line with their party but not face immediate consequences at the polls from those in their base who disagree.

At the same time, Hagan, Begich, and Warner all come from more moderate-to-conservative states as well, yet they're up for re-election next year. However, Rauch suggested, that doesn't mean their political survival is at stake.

"They're politicians, so politicians always think about politics. But in this case politics and conviction are pointing in the same direction," said Rauch, who also authored the book, "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America."

On the GOP side, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is the only sitting Republican senator who has voiced support, an announcement he made earlier this month, citing his gay son as a big reason for his change of heart.

Eight Democrats in the Senate, meanwhile, have yet to voice support for same-sex in general, an issue that their party endorsed in its platform last year.

According to the Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard, those include: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Bill Nelson of Florida, Tom Carper of Maryland, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. (Johnson of South Dakota was also listed as a senator who hasn't supported same-sex marriage, but given his reversal on DOMA this week, that could change.)

While Rauch said the public is sure to see more "conversations" in the future, he doubts some of these senators are going to "risk re-election over this issue if they don't have to."


Filed under: Democrats • Kay Hagan • Same-sex marriage • Senate
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Ed1

    Just like Obama last year she is up for re-election next year what a phony.

    March 27, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. nothing new here

    "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," she wrote
    ______________________________
    These people should not be using the taxpayers money to further these "religious agendas".
    It is time for freethinking Independent voters to take this country back.
    Liberties for all legal American citizens.

    March 27, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    -Ed1

    Just like Obama last year she is up for re-election next year what a phony.
    ****************
    In North Carolina: its hardly something that will help her. It would be nice if the conservatives on here made a more consistent effort to use proper punctuation and spelling. So much drivel, so little time, I guess.

    March 27, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Al-NY,NY

    Ed1

    Just like Obama last year she is up for re-election next year what a phony.
    -----–

    just like Rubio OK'ing immigration. Just like other GOP'ers do the same.....what's your point???

    March 27, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Ed1

    Just like Obama last year she is up for re-election next year what a phony.
    --------------
    Obama got re-elected. Smell the coffee.

    March 27, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  6. Donna

    FACT:

    Democrats voted FOR DOMA!!!

    118-65 in the House
    32-14 in the Senate
    Democrat Bill Clinton signed it into LAW.

    It would NOT have become law without Democrat support.

    And now they seek to re-write history.... yet again.

    March 27, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    DOMA should have never been implemented in the first place.

    March 27, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  8. just sayin

    the republicans need to mobilize all religious americans of every state to get registered and out to vote to stop this far left madness sweeping our country. you have seen your religious rights trampled by obamacare, now the very definition of marriage being re-written to accomodate gays and lesbians. god driven from the market place and the schools. when will you all wake up and fight back at the polls??? wake up america.

    March 27, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Donna wrote

    FACT:
    Democrat Bill Clinton signed it into LAW.

    It would NOT have become law without Democrat support.

    And now they seek to re-write history.... yet again.
    ----------------
    FACT: Democrats recognze, admit, and take responsibility for their mistakes in judgement. Republicans demonize, deny, and absolve themselves or responsibility.

    March 27, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  10. Donna

    Rudy NYC
    Ed1
    Just like Obama last year she is up for re-election next year what a phony.
    ----–
    Obama got re-elected. Smell the coffee.
    ======

    Obama also LOST North Carolina in 2012 which he had won in 2008. Democrats better smell the coffee!! The Senate is slipping from their hands over Obamacare, guns and gays.

    March 27, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. Donna

    Rudy NYC
    FACT: Democrats recognze, admit, and take responsibility for their mistakes in judgement.
    --

    translation: Democrats sell their soul for gya and lesbian campaign donations.

    March 27, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. Cody

    Tom Carper isn't my Senator. He's from Delaware.

    March 27, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  13. James Bond

    Shameless.pandering, what a spectical.

    March 27, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. James Bond

    And republicans cant get a nickel for theirs

    March 27, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. Cnederbr

    Who gives a rip? These dems are spineless anyway. They probably are supporting it because having married gays will allow gays to be hit with the marriage penalty. (Oops)

    March 27, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  16. James Bond

    So trying to help the less fortunate was never mentioned in your bible? and you think your party is righteous? rich man has a better chance of threading the eye of a needle than gain entrance to heaven. where does your bible tell you to turn your back on your brothers in need, you try to sound righteous, but your hatred is all consuming, you have no heart. the rich want to raise their standard of living, and lower yours, keep voting for them, im sure they care about you! ha! fool

    March 27, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  17. Lumpy

    Looking forward to reading all of the responses from the bible beaters. Every time one of the (better that thou), spouts off, it reinforces a belief that organized religion is nothing but the biggest scam perpetrated on man.

    March 27, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Donna wrote:

    Obama got re-elected. Smell the coffee.
    ======

    Obama also LOST North Carolina in 2012 which he had won in 2008. Democrats better smell the coffee!! The Senate is slipping from their hands over Obamacare, guns and gays.
    ------------------------------–
    Huh? Like I said before, Obama got re-elected. Smell the coffee.

    March 27, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. Reasonable Person

    Can we all actually be reasonable for once when discussing something? Can't we discuss the issue without devolving into a bashing of Republicans and Democrats, or religion against secular? Marriage is under the government's control, not the church's. So yes, it does seem necessary to hear the views of our elected officials who represent us and pass laws in the GOVERNMENT. Obviously it's now more politically favorable to be a gay marriage supporter, but we shouldn't bash the Senators for actually doing something they believe in for the first time in their careers.

    March 27, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. AprilElaine

    I wish people would STOP blaming Obama for everything that goes wrong in the government. YES Bill Clinton did sign DOMA and now he regrets it, just like REPUBLICAN Rob Portman changed his mind after his son came out. People's opinions change over time, some for the better and some for the worse. The point is that it is being recognized that gays are PEOPLE and deserve to have equal rights, it doesnt matter who did what and who signed what, what matters is that people are trying to make things right.

    March 27, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |