In another victory for gay rights advocates, Bob Casey (Penn.) has joined the rush of Senate Democrats—recently including Kay Hagan (N.C.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Claire McCaskill (Mo.)— who now endorse same sex marriage in America.
“After much deliberation and after reviewing the legal, public policy and civil-rights questions presented, I support marriage equality for same-sex couples and believe that DOMA should be repealed,” Casey told the Philadelphia Gay News today.
The reversal comes after intense public pressure on Casey, a pro-life Catholic who is among Washington’s more culturally conservative Democrats. His office received some 10,000 calls and emails in recent days urging him to follow his fellow Democrats who have reversed their opposition to the right of gays to marry, according to central Pennsylvania’s PennLive. A wide range of groups applied pressure, including Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania, Keystone Progress, Equality Pennsylvania and MoveOn.org.
In a statement detailing his new position, Casey said the letters to his office from LGBT Pennsylvanians pleading with him to reconsider had a “substantial impact on my position on this issue.” “At a time when many Americans lament a lack of commitment in our society between married men and women, why would we want less commitment and fewer strong marriages?”
But Casey may also have been influenced by recent polling suggesting majority support for gay marriage in his state: Fifty-two percent of Pennsylvanians now support same-sex marriage, according to a February Franklin and Marshall College poll, a figure that roughly matches recent national opinion surveys.
Casey, who was already a supporter of civil unions, had sent recent signals that he was reconsidering his marriage position. Two weeks ago, his spokesperson told TIME that Casey “is closely following the debate” around the Defense of Marriage Act, whose constitutionality has been challenged before the Supreme Court.
There are now eight Senate Democrats who still disapprove of same-sex marriage: Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Bill Nelson (Fl.), Tom Carper (Del.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.). According to The Hill, there are only 11 Democrats in the House who join this group. Of the 45 Republican Senators, only Rob Portman (Oh.) approves of same-sex marriage.