Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, Mark Begich
Make That 3 Senators Who Suddenly Support Marriage Equality

By Neal Broverman

Originally published on Advocate.com March 25 2013 5:07 PM ET

Claire McCaskill and Mark Warner, Democratic senators from Missouri and Virginia, respectively, both endorsed marriage equality in the past two days. Then holdout Mark Begich added his support.

The Alaska senator's change of heart was first reported by BuzzFeed, which relayed a statement from the senator it recieved via the Human Rights Campaign.

"Gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to pledge their love and commitment through the civil institution of marriage," Begich said in the statement. "I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to receive a government-issued marriage license, while religious institutions retain their right to determine which marriages they will perform."

McCaskill made the announcement on her Tumblr page, citing scripture before explaining her change of heart.

"I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love," McCaskill wrote. "My views on this subject have changed over time, but as many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff embrace long term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality."

Writing Monday on Facebook, Warner declared, "I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do. Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone."

McCaskill made the riskier move, as her state is solidly Republican and conservative. She won reelection in 2012 but was up against Todd Akin, the "legitimate rape" candidate. Virginia is a swing state but went narrowly for President Obama in the last two elections. Warner is a former governor of that state and a rising star in the party.

The list of sitting Democratic senators who have not supported marriage equality has dwindled to 11, which are listed by Time magazine as Tom Carper of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Jon Tester of Montana.

Democrats aren't the only ones changing tunes, though. Rob Portman of Ohio became the first GOP senator to endorse marriage equality when he reversed course earlier this month (saying his gay son helped change his position). Now, Republican senator Jeff Sessions may have half-heartedly done the same thing. Although his website still says marriage should remain between a man and a woman, during an impromptu interview outside the Senate chamber, Sessions reportedly told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "I think people are free to marry any way they want to. But churches are free to set standards for marriage."

"As Log Cabin Republicans, we couldn't agree with Senator Sessions more," said the group's executive director, Gregory T. Angelo, in a statement reacting to the comment. "Not only should gay Americans have the freedom to marry the person they love, but no religious institution should ever be compelled by the government to perform a marriage. There is a difference between civil marriage in the eyes of the government and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony performed in a church; fair-minded Republicans can assert both independent liberty and religious liberty by supporting the freedom to marry for all."