Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) became the third sitting Republican senator to support marriage equality on Wednesday, just days before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases that could expand marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
In an interview with KTUU, the Anchorage NBC affiliate, Murkowski said she experienced a change of heart after spending time with a same-sex couple raising four adopted children. “This is a hard issue,” she admitted. “And there may be some that when they hear the position that I hold, that are deeply disappointed. There may be some that embrace the decision that I have made. I recognize that it is an area that, as a Republican, I will be criticized for.”
Murkowski joins 53 senators, including Republicans Rob Portman (OH) and Mark Kirk (IL), and all but three Senate Democrats in backing marriage. Forty-six senators still oppose it.
The senator previously voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a press release from the Human Rights Campaign noted. In 2004, however, she voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have added a ban on same-sex marriage to the U.S. Constitution.
Murkowski outlined her evolution on the issue in an op-ed, arguing that allowing all Americans “to marry the person they love and choose” woud keep “politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another.”