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Murkowski becomes third GOP senator to back gay marriage

A third Republican senator has come out in favor of gay marriage, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announcing her support Wednesday morning.

"I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government," Murkowski wrote on her Web site. "When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values. I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another."

Murkowski joins Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who earlier this year became the first GOP senators to back gay marriage. Murkowski is also the 54th sitting senator to endorse gay marriage. (All but three of the 54 members of the Senate Democratic caucus have also backed gay marriage.)

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming days on cases involving legalizing same-sex marriage.

Murkowski noted that Ronald Reagan's daughter recently said the former president would have backed gay marriage today (something another of his children has disputed).

"Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way," Murkowski said. "Countless Alaskans and Americans want to give themselves to one another and create a home together. I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen."

Earlier Wednesday morning, Murkowski broke the news in an interview with KTUU-TV.

"There may be some that when they hear the position that I hold that are deeply disappointed. There may be some who embrace the decision that I have made," she said. "I recognize that it is an area that as a Republican I will be criticized for."

The news was hailed by the pro-gay marriage Human Rights Campaign.

“We hope other fair-minded conservatives like Sen. Murkowski stand up and join her," HRC President Chad Griffin said. "Alaska may be nicknamed ‘the Last Frontier,’ but we’ve got to make sure that LGBT Alaskans don’t have to wait to find justice.”

Murkowski was long seen as a likely recruit for the pro-gay marriage camp. She is among the Senate's leading moderates and earlier this year said her views on gay marriage were "evolving."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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