Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.), both Democrats from conservative states, on Friday became the latest senators to express a change of heart and endorse same-sex marriage.
Donnelly and Heitkamp were elected last fall, meaning they don’t have to face voters for nearly six years. While both represent states that are reliably Republican in presidential elections, the rapid pace at which public opinion on gay marriage is changing makes it a little easier to step out on the issue now.
There are now 53 sitting senators who support same-sex unions.
“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,” Heitkamp said in a statement.
As recently as this week, Heitkamp’s office said she favored states defining marriage but wouldn’t say what her personal position was.
At almost the same time, Donnelly came out with a statement of his own. “With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes,” he said. “In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all.”
The twin announcements mean there are now only four Democrats — all from red states — in the Senate who have not endorsed gay marriage: Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Landrieu and Pryor are up for reelection next year.
This week alone, six senators have endorsed gay marriage. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was one of them, joining the only other Republican senator to do so, Ohio’s Rob Portman.
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