Senator Mark Warner Endorses Gay Marriage. Who’s Next?

Senator Mark Warner announced his support for gay marriage. Eleven Democratic Senators remain opposed. Who's next? UPDATE: Answer—Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Hagan

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Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

President Barack Obama with Virginia Senator Mark Warner during a campaign rally in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 25, 2012

Virginia Democrat Mark Warner became the latest Democratic Senator to support gay marriage on Monday.

“I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do,” he says in an e-mailed statement to TIME. “Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone.”

“I was proud to be the first Virginia governor to extend antidiscrimination protections to LGBT state workers,” he continues. “In 2010, I supported an end to the military’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and earlier this month I signed an amicus brief urging the repeal of [the Defense of Marriage Act]. I believe we should continue working to expand equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.”

Warner joins three other national politicians who have reversed themselves on the gay-marriage question this month. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican, also changed their positions to support equal marriage opportunities for gays and lesbians. Over the weekend, in a Tumblr post, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, also reversed her former opposition to same-sex marriage.

Last week, a spokesman in Warner’s office told TIME that opposition to gay marriage was no longer the Senator’s position, but declined to elaborate. On Monday, TIME told Warner’s office that it was preparing a story on his public position on marriage. Hours later, Warner posted a statement announcing his reversal on Facebook and in an e-mailed statement to TIME.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments challenging Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, and on Wednesday, the court will hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that prohibits same-sex couples from receiving any of the federal benefits married couples receive. There are now just 11 Democratic Senators who have not publicly endorsed gay marriage.

Warner’s change of heart is unlikely to cause many political ripples in his home state. In September, junior Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said “legal equality should be the policy” and still beat a formidable opponent, former Republican Governor George Allen. In November, Warner’s state voted again for President Obama, proving Virginia has stretched from its conservative roots. On March 1, Warner announced he would join 39 Senators and 172 members of the House to sign the legal brief supporting the repeal of DOMA.

Warner is scheduled on April 6 to appear at the 10th Annual Commonwealth Dinner hosted by Equality Virginia, one of the largest advocacy organizations on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians. Kevin Clay, Equality Virginia’s communications coordinator, said earlier on Monday, “We are recognizing the Senator for being the first governor of Virginia to issue an executive order that included sexual orientation. He will speak following the recognition — we have not seen prepared remarks.”

The 11 remaining Senate Democrats who have not endorsed gay marriage publicly are: Mark Pryor (Ark.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Bill Nelson (Fl.), Jon Tester (Mo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.). They can be broken down into three groups.

The first group was blunt in their opposition. The offices of Senators Manchin, Johnson and Pryor each responded to TIME in one or two sentences point-blank that they still don’t endorse gay marriage. Each of these Senators represents a conservative state, and West Virginia, South Dakota and Arkansas all went heavily for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

TIME hit a wall speaking to the second group — Senators Landrieu, Tester and Donnelly — none of whom responded for comment. Louisiana, Montana and Indiana also went red in the past presidential election. Of the second group, Senator Donnelly might be able to look to his Midwestern neighbor for cover. Donnelly has endorsed benefits for gay partners in the past and said, “I stand with Rob on much of this” after Portman endorsed gay marriage after his son told him he was gay.

The rest — Senators Casey, Nelson, Carper, Heitkamp and Hagan — still do not endorse gay marriage, but are making clear signals that they are more moderate than some. Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said he “strongly supports civil rights for same-sex couples, while believing marriage should be between a man and a woman.” He added that the decision might be out of the Senator’s hands, as “the issue will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court before the end of the year.”

Casey spokeswoman April Mellody said her boss, who defeated conservative Republican Rick Santorum in 2006 and won re-election last year, “has supported civil unions, and he is closely following the debate around DOMA.” If a bill comes before the Senate, she said he’ll “thoroughly review” it. In 2010, Pennsylvania Republicans picked up the governorship, a Senate seat and five House seats.

Heitkamp communications director Whitney Phillips said the Senator “believes this should be handled on a state-by-state basis.” Last year Romney won conservative North Dakota by over 58% of the popular vote.

Hagan spokesman Chris Moyer said his boss does not endorse gay marriage, but noted that she fought against previous state actions that would have defined marriage as only between one man and one woman. The Senator must be wary in a state that turned from Obama in 2012, and gave Republicans the governorship and three House seats.

Carper’s office pointed out that he signed the DOMA supporting brief, and a Carper spokesperson said his “views on this issue have evolved and continue to evolve.” The Senator wouldn’t lose much support in such a heavily Democratic state and is the Senate Democrat most likely to endorse besides Warner.

As we know from history, a denial of a position change one day does not prescribe what will happen on the next.

On Friday, McCaskill’s spokesman John LaBombard told TIME, “Fundamentally, she opposes discrimination — and she recognizes that views on the issue, including her own, have evolved quite a bit over the past several years.” Two days later, McCaskill announced her endorsement, over a photo of a frittata she had baked on Saturday. “My views on this subject have changed over time, but as many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff embrace long-term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality,” she said. “Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principals of liberty and equality.”

For politicians, views on gay marriage don’t evolve; they jump. We’ll see who moves next.

Update: On March 26, Sen. Jon Tester announced his support for gay marriage on Facebook:

Montanans believe in the right to make a good life for their families. How they define a family should be their business and their business alone. I’m proud to support marriage equality because no one should be able to tell a Montanan or any American who they can love and who they can marry.

Update Two: On March 27, Sen. Kay Hagan announced her support for gay marriage in the Raleigh News & Observer:

We all want the same thing for our families. We want happiness, we want health, prosperity, a bright future for our children and grandchildren. After conversations I’ve had with family members, with people I go to church with and with North Carolinians from all walks of life, I’ve come to my own personal conclusion that we should not tell people who they can love, or who they can marry. It’s time to move forward with this issue.

Correction: The post has been changed to reflect that Senator Heitkamp’s statement to TIME did not explicitly oppose gay marriage.

28 comments
ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Who is next is another spineless politician who puts his electoral fate ahead of god.

AbrahamYeshuratnam
AbrahamYeshuratnam

Guy and lesbian ‘friendships’ cannot be called ‘marriages.’ Homosexuality has been rampant among youngsters from very early times. It cannot be controlled. But it is beyond one’s imagination to allow two boys or two girls to marry. It is quite ridiculous to get the seal of the Supreme Court for such an alliance. People who champion same-sex marriages are the new secular disciples of ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ – empty buzzwords that make liberals and progressives feel good while they often refuse to tolerate and sometimes even assault traditional Christian and conservative beliefs. They reflect the rising confidence and aggression of the new secularists and atheists, especially at our sick and surreal modern society. Mark Warner wants cheap popularity. People can see through his tactics, and  he may lose the next election.

 

St.Lucia
St.Lucia

Mark Warner has sold his soul for political gain to support a sinful act against the sanctity of Marriage.  Society needs to be built on the love for children, and growth, which the marriage between a man and woman combine to give.  Same sex marriage is only for self gratification and selfishness, and now it is trying erode the Government with tax breaks for married couples, who do not live for the community, rather for themselves.  Render to Cesar what is Cesar's and to God what is God's.   The supreme court will be the next group who will help tear this country down, by allowing benefits of marriage to people who are not born with anything but deviant behavior syndrome, and call it same sex love.  We all are to love one another, but Jesus did not mean same sexual pleasure at the expense of the Community, or Government.  Just what are they giving back to the community?  Votes to government officials like Mark Warner, who are seeking votes for his own political gain.  He does not obey God in this most holy sacrament.  Psalm 2 "From his throne in heaven the Lord laughs and mocks their feeble plans. Then he warns them in anger and terrifies them with his fury. (2-5)"  Pray for the right of religious belief.  The Catholic Church does not believe in this, and the Church will never condone it. Does this mean more persecution for the Church?  Maybe?  But the Lady of Fatima warns against sin and disrespect for God, and we will be facing some fearful times in our society, war, famine, crime, society failures, and eventually the fate of the Roman Empire, unless we all pray for peace, believe in the Truths and Doctrines of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  It is our only hope.  There is a Heaven, and believe there is a Hell.  The gates of Hell shall not defeat the Catholic Church, nor the stupidity of the USA.  I for one will pray for peace daily, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the Holy Rosary.  God help America.  Amen.

internetfavs
internetfavs

grow up!, just support it. 

(internetfavs.com)

debussy0
debussy0

So, he only supports gay marriage on Mondays? What about the other six days of the week? LOL.... Time editors need to READ the copy (or at least the lede!) before pushing the send button!

RickHunter
RickHunter

Basically, this is political expediency at it's best.

GrantMacDonald1
GrantMacDonald1

Being left-handed – being black or being gay is just as natural.  It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return ... it is something that should be celebrated!   If it’s between two guys or two girls -- all the better.  It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!


sacredh
sacredh

“Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone.”

Equality for everyone. What a concept. What's this country coming to?

RobbiePaul
RobbiePaul

don't get religion and civil society mixed up.....

RobbiePaul
RobbiePaul

Make separate the idea of church marriage and civil (civil law civil society) marriage.  Hey, when a gay or lesbian couple's relationship goes sour they should have every right to "civil law divorce" and the lawyers and the costs that go along with it.  Heck, the lawyers would/should support gay lesbian divorce ..it would open an entirely new segment of the population to divorce attorneys.  Why do straights have all the fun?  Let gays and lesbians join in the fun!!  Let the legal fees keep the lawyers in business.  It would also give gays and lesbians legal status and legal rights when the relationship..IF the relationship heads south.  Gay/lesbian couples much like straights have a division of labor in the relationship.  Gay/lesbian marriage gives protections to the divisions of labor that were "the couple"...

Guy
Guy

@Ivy_B @NgheLam   Some senator's have announced there opposition to DOMA while still supporting marriage as being between one man and one woman. Saying "Legal Equality" should be the policy may mean that Tim Kaine only supporters strengthened civil unions offering all the benefits of marriage but not actual marriage. Until I see the senators actually write or say they support "same sex marriage" then I'm afraid I'm not going to assume that "Legal Equality" means the same thing

Guy
Guy

Um, there seems to be an error in this article. It say's 11 democrats oppose marriage equality, that number is actually 13 as the article forgets to mention Tim Kaine of Virginia & Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia...............

Piacevole
Piacevole

@RickHunter Let me see if I understand this: DOMA and Prop 8 both have serious problems with several areas of the constitution, and opinion on the subject in the United States is shifting very raidly to approval of same-sex marriage.

So, it would seem that on constitutional grounds, general fairness, and agreement with public opinion, farriers to same-sex marriage should fall.  

There are a couple of meanings to "expediency."  One of them is "speedily, without delay."  Sounds good to me.

jck747
jck747

@RobbiePaul No one is, opponents are by and large not religious zealots, they are against for the same reasons that every state has defined it as between a man and a woman from the founding until 1996.  

Piacevole
Piacevole

@RobbiePaul It's not just about "division of labor."  It's also about benefits which have been tied to marital status with serious strings.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@Guy From the article above, paragraph 7. "In September, junior Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said “legal equality should be the policy” and still beat a formidable opponent, former Republican Gov. George Allen."



Piacevole
Piacevole

@RickHunter My bad proofreading strikes again.  That should be "rapidly" and "barriers."

debussy0
debussy0

@jck747 Right.... just like inter-racial marriage once was illegal in some states! "...opponents are by and large not religious zealots,.." So, guess that just makes them homophobes! 

Piacevole
Piacevole

@jck747 @RobbiePaul "Because that's the way we're always done it" has such a nice bureaucratic ring to it, doesn't it?

There are traditions which we'd be better off without. . . hazing, for instance.  Or the changeover from felt hats to straw "boaters" on Armistice Day. . . remember that one?   I think society could do without getting thoroughly soused on New Year's Eve as a tradition.  But that's just me.

Things change.  Attitudes change.  And caves are often cool and damp, so building houses has its good points, even if cave living was traditional at one time.

outsider
outsider

Evolution in thought.

Much like we once thought the earth was flat.. @jck747 @RobbiePaul

debussy0
debussy0

@Piacevole @RobbiePaul What "serious stings" tie heterosexual marriages that couldn't tie homosexual couples? What might those "strings" be, other than religious flotsam from some medieval time! The only interest the government should have in marriage equality is whether it affects tax revenues. Married homosexual couples would pay the same married rates as anyone else. So, please, enlighten us about those "serious strings."

Piacevole
Piacevole

@debussy0 @jck747 Maybe.  But some people like having the feeling of "exclusivity."  For them to be "in," somebody else has to be "out."

If everyone were really equal under law, this would sure cut down on the "outs," and make it difficult to define an area of "in-ness."

Piacevole
Piacevole

@debussy0 @Piacevole @RobbiePaul I must have been less than clear.  "Serious strings" tie benefits and responsibilities to marriage, regardless of the relative gender of the participants.  That's the way it's been set up, rightly or wrongly.

What I was trying to say is that the "traditional" division of labor may or may not be relevant to same-sex marriages: I don't think that gay people are asking to be imitative, I think they're asking for the package which comes with the status of being married.