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Scott Walker has attended gay wedding reception

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has attended a wedding reception for a gay couple, he said Sunday, but still believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

NASHUA, N.H. -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has attended a wedding reception for a gay couple, he said Sunday, though the potential 2016 contender still believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“That’s certainly a personal issue. For a family member, Tonette and I and our family have already had a family member who’s had a reception. I haven’t been at a wedding,” Walker said when msnbc asked whether he would be willing to attend a gay wedding. “That's true even though my position on marriage is still that it’s defined between a man and a woman, and I support the constitution of the state. But for someone I love, we’ve been at a reception.”

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The Wisconsin state constitution had banned gay marriage until a federal judge ruled the ban unconstitutional in 2014. Wisconsin newspapers reported that Walker attended a reception for his wife’s cousin, Shelli Marquardt, shortly thereafter. After a brief period, an appeal halted gay marriages in Wisconsin — but they resumed late last year when the Supreme Court rejected the appeal.

Walker isn’t the only potential GOP candidate willing to attend such events. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who announced his presidential bid last week, told the cable network Fusion that he would participate. 

“If there’s somebody that I love that’s in my life, I don’t necessarily have to agree with their decisions or the decisions they’ve made to continue to love them and participate in important events,” Rubio said.

But others disagree. Rick Santorum, the former senator and presidential candidate, told radio host Hugh Hewitt last week that attending a gay wedding “would be a violation of my faith.” And Sen. Ted Cruz, who has announced he’s running for president in 2016, dodged the question. “I haven’t faced that circumstance. I have not had a loved one go to a, have a gay wedding,” he told Hewitt.

Public opinion on same sex marriage has shifted rapidly over the past 10 years. Polls show that younger Americans overwhelmingly support legalizing gay marriage; a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed 74% of Americans ages 18-34 support it, compared to 45% of Americans over 65.

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The quick shift is obvious on the Democratic side, too, and illustrates how the issue has rapidly moved from a cultural wedge issue for Republicans to an uncomfortable subject for conservatives. In 2008, neither major Democratic presidential candidate supported legalizing gay marriage; President Obama didn’t announce he’d “evolved” his position on the matter until 2012.  Hilary Clinton also supported civil unions and not gay marriage in 2008, not announcing she would support gay marriage until 2013. Even then, she said it should be up to the states.

That changed last week, with the announcement of her 2016 presidential campaign — with a video that prominently featured a gay couple. (They later invited her to their wedding, they told msnbc's Jose Diaz-Balart.)

"Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,” a Clinton spokeswoman said in a statement last week.