President Obama's announcement that he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to marry has opened the doors to several other Democrats and has solidified the party's position -- at least among its leadership -- on the matter.
At this point, all of the elected leaders of the national Democratic Party support marriage equality.
On the Senate side, both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) now say that they support civil marriage equality.
Reid's initial statement was more than a bit contorted:
My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But in a civil society, I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they want, and it’s no business of mine if two men or two women want to get married. The idea that allowing two loving, committed people to marry would have any impact on my life, or on my family’s life, always struck me as absurd.
In talking with my children and grandchildren, it has become clear to me they take marriage equality as a given. I have no doubt that their view will carry the future.
I handled a fair amount of domestic relations work when I was a practicing lawyer, and it was all governed by state law. I believe that is the proper place for this issue to be decided as well.
Today, though, he cleared it up. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Reid said he would vote for marriage equality:
On Thursday, reporters asked Reid if he would vote to legalize same sex marriage if it was on the ballot in Nevada and he nodded yes, even though he previously voted for the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Rhode Island's Reed -- representing the rare New England state without marriage equality -- was more clear in a tweet:
I support same sex marriage and will cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act.
Then, this afternoon, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) gave marriage equality another boost, in a statement invoking the history of marriage in this country:
One of the first votes I cast as a member of the Maryland State Senate in 1967 was to repeal the anti-miscegenation statute that remained Maryland law. It was a legacy of a discriminatory history of prejudice and segregation. It was my feeling then and now that individuals have a right to choose their partners, and society must accord them that freedom.
We now confront a variation of that miscegenation issue, and that has been what to call the relationship between two people of the same gender. The word ‘marriage’ has held a specific meaning for centuries as the union between a man and a woman. But it has also meant, in a broader sense, a commitment of one person to another, recognized by each of them and by society.
I have believed that the phrase "civil union" was an appropriate definition of a relationship that is both different and the same between two people of the same sex. And I have believed strongly that such couples must be treated equally under the law.
Because I believe that equal treatment is a central tenet of our nation, I believe that extending the definition of marriage to committed relationships between two people, irrespective of their sex, is the right thing to do and will not, in any way, undermine the institution of marriage so important to our society nor impose a threat to any individual marriage. It will, however, extend the respect due to every one of our fellow citizens that we would want for ourselves and our children.
What this means, yes, is that all of the elected leaders of the national Democratic Party now support marriage equality.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has long supported marriage equality and was the first national elected official to announce support for a marriage equality plank in the Democratic party's platform in response to a question posed to her office by Metro Weekly.
Outside of Congress, the heads of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee do as well. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) at the DNC, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) at the DCCC and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) at the DSCC all have been supporters of marriage equality.
All three groups -- the DNC, DCCC and DSCC -- have sent out emails in support of the president's position in the day since his announcement in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.