The Four Senate Democrats Who Still Oppose Gay Marriage

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 5 2013 10:25 AM

It's Getting Mighty Lonely for the Four Senate Democrats Who Still Oppose Gay Marriage

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With Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's reversal, there are now 53 senators who support gay marriage.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The list of Senate Democrats who oppose gay marriage continues to shrink. The latest two senators to reverse their position on the issue of the moment in Washington: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The pair followed what Politico calls a new playbook for gay marriage-backing backers, making sure that their announcements are public, but not too public (that is, little to no television coverage).

Donnelly took to Facebook to make his reversal known this morning:

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In recent years, our country has been involved in an important discussion on the issue of marriage equality. While serving in the House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to act on a core belief of mine: we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans. I voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" and was an original supporter of the bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexual orientation. It is also for that reason that I oppose amending either Indiana’s or our nation’s constitution to enshrine in those documents an "us" and a "them," instead of a "we." With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all.

Heitkamp, meanwhile, announced hers in a statement to reporters:

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. I view the ability of anyone to marry as a logical extension of this belief. The makeup of families is changing, but the importance of family is enduring.

They become the 12th and 13th senators in the past month to reverse their stance on the issue. Fifty-three senators now favor allowing gays and lesbians to wed, a majority but not a filibuster-proof one. With today's announcements, that leaves only four Senate Democrats on the other side of the fence:

  • Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Up for re-election in 2018.
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Up for re-election in 2014.
  • Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Up for re-election in 2014.
  • Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota. Won't run for re-election in 2014.

On the other side of the aisle, only Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk have come out in favor of gay marriage. Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, meanwhile, suggested last month that she's still "evolving" on the issue, making her the odds-on favorite to eventually become the third Republican to break with party leadership on the issue.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.