After receiving the endorsement of the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Wednesday indicated for the first time her personal support for same-sex marriage. "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 response to a question from the [Bangor Daily News].... A spokesman for Collins' re-election campaign, Lance Dutson, confirmed that she was publicly announcing her support for gay marriage for the first time.
Proponents of marriage equality have had extraordinary success of late convincing judges that discriminatory bans on same-sex marriage must be struck down. They've had far less success, however, convincing congressional Republicans, most of whom still oppose marriage equality.
That said, the small, select club of GOP lawmakers who publicly support equal-marriage rights added a member yesterday afternoon.
Collins is now the seventh congressional Republican to endorse marriage equality, joining Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).
Taken together, there are currently 278 Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill -- 233 in the House and 45 in the Senate. As of today, seven of them believe that if two consenting adults fall in love and want to get married, they should be allowed to do so.
That's just 2.5% of all congressional Republicans, up from 2.1% the day before. For civil-rights proponents, persuading GOP officials remains an uphill climb.
The story behind Collins' announcement is a little different than most.
Mid-day yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay rights, announced its support for Collins' re-election campaign. The endorsement raised eyebrows -- HRC had a choice between a Maine Republican who hadn't endorsed marriage equality and a Maine Democrat, Shenna Bellows, who has championed LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage. HRC threw its support to Collins anyway.
A few hours later, the GOP lawmaker announced her new position. This probably wasn't a coincidence.
Indeed, Collins waited quite a while before coming around on the issue. The Republican remained an opponent of marriage equality during a statewide vote on the issue in 2009 and again in 2012. She even remained an opponent this year until after the primary period came and went.
Maine's Rebekah Metzler wrote in a column this morning, "There are times politicians are bold and then there are times when less bold politicians seem more so because of their more cautious and reluctant colleagues. Sen. Susan Collins publicly supporting same-sex marriage in 2014 represents the latter."
Still, incremental progress is still progress. Collins' announcement, regardless of the motivations behind it, represents another small step in the right direction.