The issue of marriage equality has been gaining ground in the national debate since the election. Now with the Supreme Court set to be engaged in the debate, and even GOP members starting to change their position, the topic is front and center. The latest elected leader to support marriage equality is Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Her statement of support should not be a surprise, but is newsworthy because of the conservative nature of Missouri and the timing of the Supreme Court Case.
A Democrat coming out in support of marriage equality is not groundbreaking. However, it is not a coincidence that Democratic Party leaders have been publicly supporting gay marriage in the buildup to the Supreme Court Case. Even if they will not admit it, this is part of a concerted effort to control the public narrative. If anyone thinks that the Supreme Court Justices do not watch the news, you are extremely naive. Even though their job is to not let public opinion sway them and strictly rule based on the constitution, it can only benefit the cause to have the public opinion from elected and non-elected leaders show support.
Senator McCaskill's support is newsworthy because of who she represents. In the past, she has walked a tight rope on this issue. Her statements have ranged from being opposed to marriage equality, to supporting civil unions, to being opposed to discrimination while supporting the state's right to decide, and now she fully supports gay marriage. There are political reasons behind her tight rope, as the conservative state of is less likely to support someone who supports this issue.
The senator’s full support is a sign of the changing times. The GOP is starting to come around on the issue, and 74% of the next generation of leaders supports. It is no longer political suicide to support gay marriage, even in a conservative state.
Senator McCaskill’s decision to fully support marriage equality signifies several things, including personal growth on her part, but it more importantly highlights the changing face of the political debate. Her statement is newsworthy because she no longer has to walk the tight rope on gay marriage to continue to get votes in a conservative state. It also helpswith the larger goal of shaping public discussion heading into the Supreme Court hearings.