The Supreme Court has yet to rule on gay marriage, but the verdict among leading Democrats is clear. When asked if they support gay marriage, the party’s top elected officials are increasingly saying, “I do.”
Even Democrats who are running for re-election in competitive, conservative-leaning states in 2014 are coming out in favor of the practice. North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, for example, announced her support for same-sex marriage Wednesday.
“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 said in a statement.
Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, meanwhile, endorsed gay nuptials on his Facebook page Monday.
“I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do,” he said. Warner changed his Twitter avatar to a symbol used by supporters of gay marriage as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases involving the issue.
Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester made a similar social networking gesture in favor of same-sex matrimony.
“I’m proud to support marriage equality because no one should be able to tell a Montanan or any American who they can love and who they can marry,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Tester’s announcement followed Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s embrace of gay marriage. Both Democrats were re-elected in November.
North Carolina, Virginia, Montana, and Missouri have all voted to ban same-sex marriage. North Carolina held its vote last year, while Missouri’s dates back to 2004.
There are now only nine Democratic senators who oppose gay marriage, down from 17 before the 2012 elections. Even some of the holdouts don’t sound very committed. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu has been quoted as saying, “I feel very strongly that people should be allowed to love who they love, but unfortunately my state has a very strong ban against gay marriage constitutionally, so I’m going to have to think really carefully and listen to the voters of my state about that issue.”
This is a dramatic turnaround. In 1996, Senate Democrats voted 32 to 14 in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriage. House Democrats supported it by a margin of 188 to 65.
Liberal stalwarts like Joe Biden, Paul Wellstone, and Barbara Milkulski were among the Democratic senators who supported the Defense of Marriage Act.
Democratic President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. The legislation’s constitutionality is now being considered by the Supreme Court.