By HENRY C. JACKSON
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday said she supports gay marriage, making her the third Senate Republican to do so.
Murkowski’s announcement comes with the Supreme Court days away from issuing a decision on two cases related to gay marriage. The high court is considering both California’s gay marriage ban and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government,” Murkowski wrote in an opinion piece posted on her Senate website. “When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values. 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 had previously said her views on same-sex marriage were “evolving.”
She joins a growing list of senators who have announced their public support for gay marriage. Two other GOP senators– Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio–previously announced their support for gay marriage. Forty-nine Democratic senators and two independents senators also back gay marriage. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin, of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, remain opposed.
Murkowski cited the looming Supreme Court ruling as one reason she announced her decision now.
In explaining her view, Murkowski cited her own experience. She said she had recently nominated a same-sex couple from Alaska as “Angels in Adoption” and ate lunch with the family, which included four adopted children.
It bothered her, she wrote, that, “despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses.”
“After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room–and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner,” Murkowski wrote.
She said her position was in keeping with Republican ideals and cited former President Ronald Reagan.
“Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way,” she wrote.
Groups supporting same-sex marriage quickly praised Murkowski’s shift.
“Senator Murkowski’s courageous and principled announcement today sends a clear message that marriage equality must come to all 50 states in this country,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “As the Supreme Court prepares to rule in two landmark marriage cases this month, a growing bipartisan coalition is standing up for the right of all couples to marry–and there is no turning back that tide.”