Murkowski the third Republican senator to come out for gay marriage

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

An Alaskan congresswoman on Wednesday became the third Republican senator to publicly support marriage equality, just days before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois in marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives—while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another,” Murkowski wrote in an op-ed.

But she went on to further detail her beliefs, going to pains to describe she supports “civil” marriage for gay couples, but, as a Catholic, believes marriage “exists exclusively between a man and a woman.”

While my support for same sex civil marriage is something I believe in, I am equally committed to guaranteeing that religious freedoms remain inviolate, so that churches and other religious institutions can continue to determine and practice their own definition of marriage…As a Catholic, I see marriage as a valued sacrament that exists exclusively between a man and a woman. Other faiths and belief systems feel differently about this issue – and they have every right to…

Murkowski cited GOP beliefs in small government and personal liberty as part of her new thinking on gay marriage.

Portman, whose son is gay, reversed his anti-gay marriage position in March. Weeks later, Kirk endorsed marriage equality and said, “Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back.”

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which former President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996, defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court justices will also make a decision about the constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage.

Seventy-two percent of Americans say that recognition of same-sex marriage is inevitable, according to this month’s poll by the Pew Research Center. This includes 85% of gay marriage supporters and 59% of those who oppose legalizing same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, more than two dozen Republicans added their names to a brief urging the Supreme Court to declare that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The Democratic hold-outs on supporting gay marriage include Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.