On the heels of receiving the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement in her reelection race, Susan Collins of Maine has become the fourth Republican U.S. senator to publicly endorse marriage equality.
“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said today in response to a question from the Bangor Daily News. She joins Rob Portman of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska as Republican senators on the side of marriage equality.
There had been some criticism of HRC’s endorsement, announced earlier today, because Collins had yet to endorse equal marriage rights, saying the issue was something for each state to decide.
“What she has consistently said is she doesn’t want to get involved in state-level referendum issues,” Lance Dutson, a spokesman for Collins’s campaign, told the Daily News. “She’s a U.S. senator, and she stays within the purview of her office. But when asked [Wednesday] about her personal stance on this issue, she’s said she supports it.”
Shenna Bellows, the Democrat seeking to unseat Collins, is a longtime marriage equality activist. She is the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and headed the coalition Mainers United for Marriage, which campaigned for a ballot measure returning marriage equality to Maine, approved by voters in 2012.
In the wake of the HRC endorsement, Bellows criticized Collins for being silent on the issue. After Collins’s subsequent announcement, Bellows said the Republican should have made her views known sooner.
“My opponent’s voice on marriage equality could have made a real difference in 2012, when this was up for a vote in Maine,” Bellows told the Bangor paper. “At that time, I was organizing Republicans for the Freedom to Marry, and we invited Susan Collins to endorse the campaign. She declined.”
In endorsing Collins, HRC cited her support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” among other LGBT rights measures. She is in her third term in the Senate. She received an 82 out of a possible 100 on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for the 112th Congress (2011-2013).