Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski endorsed gay marriage Wednesday, becoming the third GOP senator to do so after Ohio’s Rob Portman and Illinois’ Mark Kirk.
Murkowski referenced President Reagan in her letter to Alaskans explaining her decision. “Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way…I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen.” Murkowski had stated earlier this year that she was “evolving” on the issue.
In 1996 the Alaska legislature became the first state to pass a law specifically banning same-sex marriages, and in 1998 about 68% of the public voted for a referendum upholding that law. Alaska determined that state and local benefits must also apply to same sex partners in 2005. According to Public Policy Polling, 67% of Alaskans support some form of legal recognition, but 51% do not endorse same-sex marriage.
After Murkowski’s announcement, Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, said, “With a solid majority of the American public supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry, along with a majority of Republican voters under 50, we’ll see more and more leaders like Senator Murkowski — from all parties and all states across the nation — moving to be in line with the electorate and on the right side of history.”
Alaska’s other Senator, Democrat Mark Begich, endorsed gay marriage last year.