In an op-ed posted on her website, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) expressed her support for gay marriage on Wednesday.
While Murkowski cites a “clear cultural shift” for her change in opinion, she also asks the government, “With the notion of marriage — an exclusive, emotional, binding ‘til death do you part’ tie — becoming more and more an exception to the rule given a rise in cohabitation and high rates of divorce, why should the federal government be telling adults who love one another that they cannot get married, simply because they happen to be gay? I believe when there are so many forces pulling our society apart, we need more commitment to marriage, not less.”
She also noted that while she is supportive of gay marriage, she is just as strongly committed to protecting “religious freedoms … so that other churches and other institutions can continue to determine and practice their own definition of marriage.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) was the first to vocalize his support of gay marriage in March. In his op-ed, he stated his eldest son, who had recently come out as gay, was the catalyst behind his change of heart. Not even a month after, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) released a statement on his blog, claiming, “Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back — government has no place in the middle.”
While Kirk’s support for gay marriage was short, sweet, and free of political reasoning, both Portman and Murkowski related their evolving opinions back to the virtues of Republican government, conservative family values, and even dropped President Reagan’s name.
Although Portman’s and Murkowski’s modified outlooks on gay marriage have been profound moments for the gay community, not everyone has a gay son — and that’s not what it should take to ensure equality across the board. Additionally, Murkowski’s association of conservative and Republican elements is a solid attempt at getting others on board with supporting gay marriage, but is that what it is going to take to ensure that our fellow gay Americans have the right to marry — because Reagan would probably allow it? Is it convincing enough to say that allowing gays to marry is in line with conservative, Republican virtues when for so long the right has opposed it?
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Murkowski is the 55th senator to support marriage equality, leaving 45 senators against it and 1, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Mass.), listed as unknown.
Out of the 45 senators that oppose gay marriage, three of them are Democrats — Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). According to USA Today, Landrieu claims her stance is “evolving” while Pryor and Manchin do not support it at all.