Sen. Susan Collins announced her support for same-sex marriage Wednesday, making her the fourth Republican senator to openly endorse marriage equality.
“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in a statement to Metro Weekly. “Today, same-sex couples can be legally married in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 44% of Americans live in a state where same-sex couples can be legally married, and I believe this number will only continue to grow. I have long opposed efforts to impose a federal ban on same-sex marriage. In both 2004 and 2006, I voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by preempting state laws.”
According to the Bangor Daily News, a spokesman for Collins’s reelection campaign confirmed she was announcing her support for same-sex marriage. “What she has consistently said is 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,” a spokesman for Collins said. “But when asked [today] about her personal stance on this issue, she said she supports it.”
Collins’s statement comes hours after the Human Rights Campaign announced their endorsement of the Maine Republican for reelection and a day before the one year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage-equality decisions on the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
According to Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, the announcement from Collins builds upon a shifting support for LGBT-rights within the GOP.
“On the eve of the anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in favor of federal civil marriage recognition for committed same-sex couples and the day after Congressman Richard Hanna’s victory over a GOP primary opponent who challenged him because of his support for marriage equality, it seems the dam has finally broken: from local legislators to United States Senators, Republicans around the country are coming to the common-sense conservative conclusion that marriage equality strengthens society and is no threat to religious liberty,” Angelo said in a statement. “As a longtime ally of Log Cabin Republicans who championed repeal of the flawed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy and most recently the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Senator Collins’ declaration of support for civil marriage equality is the latest milestone in a career that has exhibited bold and unwavering support for the LGBT community.”
In their endorsement of Collins over her pro-LGBT Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows, HRC noted Collins role in authoring the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” leading efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and her votes in 2004 and 2006 against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, among other issues during her 17 years in the Senate.
“I am grateful for the support that I continue to receive from the Human Rights Campaign for my work in the Senate to end discrimination and achieve LGBT equality,” Collins said in a statement that accompanied HRC’s announcement of the endorsement. “HRC fully understands the need to have allies in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses, and I am proud of the reputation that I have established for working with my Senate colleagues of both parties in a bipartisan spirit for fairness and equality. I look forward to our continued work together to bring people together and remove barriers that divide us.”
Collins has long refused to state her position on same-sex marriage, instead describing it as a state issue and one not appropriate for her to weigh in on. Following HRC’s endorsement, Collins was quickly attacked by Bellows for her silence.
“My opponent, Republican Susan Collins, had the chance to speak up in favor of marriage equality in 2012 or any time in the previous decade. Two years after her constituents made their feelings known at the ballot box, she has refused to break her silence,” Bellows said in a statement. “I believe Mainers need, want and deserve more proactive representation on equal rights — on allowing LGBT students to learn without fear of bullying, on applying for jobs and going to work without fear of discrimination, and on much more. I’m running for Senate to provide that proactive representation and to expand Constitutional protections for our LGBT community.”
Collins joins three other Senate Republicans in openly supporting same-sex marriage: Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).