And then there were six: Today Bill Nelson of Florida became the latest Democratic U.S. senator to support marriage equality, leaving only six holdouts among Dems in that chamber.
Nelson gave a statement to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board saying, in part, “If The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn’t, and I won’t. So I will add my name to the petition of senators asking the Supreme Court to declare the law that prohibits gay marriage unconstitutional.”
Nelson had previously backed civil unions as an alternative to same-sex marriage, but he arrived his new position after discussions with constituents, clergy, and others, his spokesman Dan McLaughlin told the Times.
“People say, ‘Why now?’” McLaughlin said. “Well, it’s because [of] the cases that went before the Supreme Court and the public debate that has ensued. During this discourse, Senator Nelson has heard from a lot of constituents. The way he goes about his job is to always treat people with civility and respect and hear what they have to say.”
Nelson’s announcement follows those of two other Democratic senators, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tom Carper of Delaware, and one Republican, Mark Kirk of Illinois, in support of marriage equality earlier this week.
Out of the 53 Democrats in the Senate, the six remaining who have not publicly backed marriage equality are Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
Two independents who caucus with the Democrats, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, both support marriage equality. Besides Kirk, the only Republican senator to endorse equal marriage rights for same-sex couples is Rob Portman of Ohio.