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In recent weeks, the list of same-sex marriage supporters on Capitol Hill has been growing. In addition to a handful of Republicans — such as Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY) — the vast majority of Democrats have voiced their support for the rights of same sex couples.
Still, a few Democrats are remaining silent on the issue. Meet the seven Senate Democrats who have not voiced their support for same-sex marriage — yet.
During his 2012 campaign, one day after President Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) released a statement confirming that he would not be following the president’s lead. Donnelly chose to concentrate on jobs and the economy. He stated, “Every day I wake up in the morning and say how can we put another family to work in Anderson. That’s what I think is important.”
A spokesman for the senator also said, “Senator Donnelly has a record of supporting the position that marriage is reserved for the union between a man and a woman.”
Despite being criticized by Democrats for his position, Donnelly won the Senate election — with some help from his opponent, Richard Mourdock.
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South Dakota’s senior senator has long refused to take a public stand on same-sex marriage. Since 2006, when he took to the floor to debate against the Marriage Protection Act, Senator Johnson has never opposed same-sex marriage on principle. Instead, he insists that marriage is a state issue, and opposes debating it on the national stage.
The senator said on the Senate floor in 2006, “My state of South Dakota already has enacted an anti-gay marriage law and is taking up a possible state constitutional amendment to that effect. But that is where the debate ought to be taking place, in South Dakota and in the other states; not here in DC.” A spokesman for Senator Johnson did tell BuzzFeed in late March that the senator no longer supports the Defense of Marriage Act.
Johnson will be retiring at the end of his term in 2014.
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Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) also considers same-sex marriage to be an issue that ought to be settled state by state. Despite this stance, Heitkamp has not expressed any opinion on the issue itself — but did not hesitate to criticize President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. In an interview, Senator Heitkamp said, “I think that this is a state issue. I think that this is a distraction and I don’t think he is going to get a Congress that is going to agree with him and so here we go again talking about things that aren’t about jobs and improving the economy and getting this country moving.”
Senator Landrieu (D-LA) has taken a similar position to senators Johnson and Heitkamp, declining to voice her own opinion and instead arguing that same-sex marriage should be left to the states.
Landrieu released a statement on March 28, stating, “The people of Louisiana have made clear that marriage in our state is restricted to one man and one woman. While my personal views have evolved, I will support the outcome of Louisiana’s recent vote.”
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Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) may be the most conservative Democrat on this issue. Senator Manchin opposed repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, citing “an issue of timing” for his reasoning. He apologized for his position, but remained committed to it.
According to a 2011 Public Policy Polling poll, 71 percent of West Virginia voters oppose same-sex marriage. That number lowers slightly to 61 percent among West Virginia Democrats. Manchin confirmed his view on Tuesday, stating, “I believe that a marriage is a union between one man and one woman. My beliefs are guided by my faith, and I support the Defense of Marriage Act.”
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In 2012, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) told the Miami Herald, “I have a record fighting against discrimination and standing up for people’s civil rights based on their sexual orientation. I believe marriage should be left to the states, and Florida voted on same-sex marriage in 2008.”
Most recently, Senator Nelson confirmed his own stance on same-sex marriage, saying, “My personal preference is that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
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Keeping Senator Manchin company on the list of socially conservative Democrats is Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). In 2006, Pryor said, “I oppose gay marriage. In 2004, I supported the amendment to the Arkansas constitution to ensure the status of marriage in our state remains only between a man and woman. I support the federal law we already have on the books, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between only a man and a woman and further declares that no state is required to honor a same-sex relationship sanctioned by another state. At this point, I do not think there is a need for a constitutional amendment given Arkansas’ amendment, federal law, and a judicial process that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.”
According to the Arkansas Times, a spokesman for Senator Pryor said on March 28 that the senator has a “moral belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.” The spokesman added that Pryor believes homosexuality is a personal choice.