Following the announcements from Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Thursday and senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) on Friday, a majority of the United States Senate now supports same-sex marriage for the first time in history.
Senator Nelson’s position evolved quickly after stating only a few weeks prior, “My personal preference is that marriage is between a man and a woman.” On Thursday the senior senator from Florida wrote in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, “It is generally accepted in American law and U.S. society today…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that.”
“The civil rights and responsibilities for one must pertain to all,” Nelson continued. “So I will add my name to the petition of senators asking the Supreme Court to declare the law that prohibits gay marriage unconstitutional.”
Donnelly voiced his support on Facebook on Friday morning, writing, “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.’” He continued, “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.”
Despite publicly claiming that same-sex marriage ought to be a state issue, Senator Heidi Heitkamp said in an emailed statement to the press, “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.”
Nelson’s announcement tipped the Senate majority scale in favor of same-sex marriage, with the help of Republican supporters Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). Despite the majority, four Democratic senators have yet to voice their support. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have remained silent on the issue thus far.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana