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Moderate Sen. McCaskill supports gay marriage

Add Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to the growing list of politicians who have evolved on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Sen. Claire McCaskill. (AP Photo Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Add Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to the growing list of politicians who have evolved on the issue of same-sex marriage.

"I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love," the moderate Democrat wrote on her Tumblr Sunday night. "While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry."

As public opinion on gay marriage continues to shift toward record acceptance rates, more politicians have come out in support of it. In the last few weeks alone, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton made public statements in support of repealing the federal rule that prevents gay marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). President Clinton signed the DOMA into law in 1996. Some Republicans, too, have broken with their party position this year by supporting gay marriage, including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. Dozens of Republicans signed a legal brief last month in support of gay marriage, including several ex-members of the George W. Bush administration.

McCaskill's support arrives the same week that the Supreme Court will hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.

The senator admits that her views on the subject "have changed over time," and says she can no longer stay silent on the issue: "[A]s many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff embrace long term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality. Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principals of liberty and equality."

In 2009, she came under fire after suggesting that a vote for a proposed gun provision would be like voting in favor of same-sex marriage, and last May, after President Obama came out in support of legalizing same-sex marriage, McCaskill refused to clearly state her own position. As noted by the Springfield News-Leader, McCaskill has a history of walking a fine line when it came to supporting marriage equality for the LGBT community:

McCaskill, D-Mo., has stated her opposition to gay marriage in the past, but she’s walked a bit of a tightrope on the question. She has expressed support for civil unions, which grant gay couples some — but not all — of the legal rights that married couples enjoy. She also opposed Missouri’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, arguing that it was unnecessary because existing state law already prohibited gay marriage.

McCaskill defended her Senate seat in November against Tea Party backed Rep. Todd Akin after a contentious election battle. Akin's comments on "legitimate rape" and abortion became an oft-repeated soundbite against him last year.

See below a discussion about recent conversions to pro-marriage equality positions by politicians and the public on Sunday's Melissa Harris-Perry.