Hardball with Chris Matthews, 3/17/13, 8:00 PM ET

Hillary Clinton backs same-sex marriage

Hillary Clinton has announced her full support for marriage equality. Does this put her in the 2016 race? Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin and Salon’s Joan Walsh discuss.

Hillary comes out on gay marriage: Is she preparing to run for president?

Updated

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may not have declared whether she’s running for president in 2016, but her public declaration supporting gay marriage on Monday puts her on the same page with other potential Democratic candidates should she decide to run.

Clinton made the announcement in an online video released by the Human Rights Campaign. “LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. That’s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law,” she said. Clinton acknowledged her evolving position on the issue. “Like so many others, my views have been shaped over time by people I have known and loved, by my experience representing our nation on the world stage, my devotion to law and human rights, and the guiding principles of my faith.”

Her support comes not long after her husband, former President Bill Clinton penned an op-ed, which backed overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and just days before the Supreme Court will look at both DOMA and California’s Prop 8.

A slew of potential Democratic 2016 candidates have also endorsed same-sex marriage. That includes Vice President Joe Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Clinton’s view isn’t really controversial, as polls show a dramatic rise in support for gay marriage. In fact, one from ABC News/Washington Post released Monday showed 58% of Americans believe gay couples should be allowed to wed.

But many are asking why Clinton is making this announcement now. Is it because she’s inching closer to running for the Oval Office?

Salon.com’s Joan Walsh said on Monday’s Hardball that after watching the Human Rights Campaign video, she thought for the first time that Clinton would actually run for president. “I don’t think there’s going to be anyone running in that [Democratic 2016] primary that doesn’t support marriage rights,” and if they do it will be a “dangerous place to be,” said Walsh.

Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, made no political predictions. He said it was Clinton who reached out to his organization about 10 days ago to say she wanted to make her views on same-sex marriage public. “She was so excited,” Griffin recounted.

The Republicans are far more divided on gay marriage. GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio reversed his opposition to same-sex couples tying the knot last week, two years after his son told him he was gay. However, some, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio–frequently mentioned as a 2016 candidate–are insisting the law should be left up to the states. “Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in the traditional sense does not make me a bigot,” Rubio declared at CPAC last week.

The issue is clearly on the right’s radar. The Republican National Committee on Monday released a study examining what went wrong in 2012. The report makes clear there’s a generational gap on gay rights, calling it a “gateway” issue among young voters deciding whether or not the party is for them. It says the GOP needs to reach out to gay voters and demonstrate “we care about them too.” However, there’s no recommendation for policy changes toward LGBTers.

Hardball host Chris Matthews said he didn’t see the GOP officially evolving on gay rights by 2016. “The Republican Party platform will oppose gay marriage,” he predicted.

Hillary comes out on gay marriage: Is she preparing to run for president?

Updated