South Dakota’s Johnson Is Latest Senator To Embrace Same-Sex Marriage

Tim Johnson

Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) is the latest Democratic elected official to come out in favor of same-sex marriage. Following last week’s announcements from senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in support of same-sex marriage, Senator Johnson’s decision makes him the 54th senator to “evolve” on this issue.

Johnson announced in a press release on Monday, “After lengthy consideration, my views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equality legislation. This position doesn’t require any religious denomination to alter any of its tenets; it simply forbids government from discrimination regarding who can marry whom.”

It’s not entirely surprising that Senator Johnson, who will retire at the end of his term in 2014, voiced his support for same-sex marriage. In 2006, Johnson spoke out and voted against the Marriage Protection Act, which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and in 2010 Johnson co-sponsored the Senate bill that repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Three Democratic senators — Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) — have yet to throw their support behind gay marriage. Landrieu told CNN, “I’m a lot, like other people said, my views have evolved on this. But my state has a very strong constitutional amendment against gay marriage and I think I have to honor that.” Manchin told Talking Points Memo on Tuesday, “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.” And Pryor told a local Arkansas television network, “I am opposed to gay marriage,” but in terms of same-sex couples receiving government benefits, Pryor said, “put me down in the undecided category.”

Senator Nelson’s support on April 4 marked the first time ever that a majority of the Senate has been in support of same-sex marriage. The continued support from senators, including Johnson and two Republicans—Rob Portman  of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois—demonstrates that public support for the measure is growing beyond Republican attempts to suppress it.

Photo: Jonathan Godfrey via Flickr.com

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