Susan Collins became the fourth Republican senator to support marriage equality on Wednesday, announcing her position in a questionnaire from Maine’s Bangor Daily News. “A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins wrote. Voters in Maine outlawed same-sex marriage in 2009, but legalized it in 2012.
Collins’ spokesperson clarified that the senator had previously remained silent on marriage equality because “she doesn’t want to get involved in state-level referendum issues.” “She’s a U.S. senator, and she stays within the purview of her office,” Lance Dutson told the paper. “But when asked [today] about her personal stance on this issue, she said she supports it.” Collins publicly announced her position after receiving the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization. HRC also endorsed the senator in 2008.
Despite remaining silent on marriage, Collins had long been acted as an ally of the LGBT community, sponsoring legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Telll — the military’s ban against openly gay servicemembers — and supporting a measure to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
With twenty states now allowing same-sex couples to marry, Republican lawmakers have steered clear of the matter in recent years. On Monday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) urged the party to avoid discussing social issues and Republican leaders have previously preached greater tolerance towards gay people.
Collins joins Republican senators Rob Portman (OH), Mark Kirk (IL) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) in supporting equal marriage rights. Almost all Democratic senators have evolved on the issue, with the exception of Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).