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Donnelly comes out (in support of marriage equality)

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By Lesley Weidenbener

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly announced on Friday that he now supports "marriage equality for all," switching a position against same-sex unions that he had reiterated last year when he ran for office.

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., posted this message Friday on his Facebook page.

Donnelly becomes one of the last Senate Democrats to announce his support for same-sex marriage.

Donnelly said on his Facebook page that, "With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all."

The senator also said he believes that "we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans."

Donnelly previously voted to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that led to the discharge of many gay service men and women. And he was an original supporter of a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of sexual orientation.

Joe Donnelly
  • Joe Donnelly
He said that's also the reason that he opposes "amending either Indiana's or our nation's constitution to enshrine in those documents an 'us' and a 'them,' instead of a 'we.'"

But last year, when President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, Donnelly separated himself from the president, saying he believed marriage to be the union of a man and woman.

Recently, though, as many of his Senate Democratic colleagues announced their support for same-sex marriage, Donnelly has been in the news as one of the last in his caucus to oppose it. On Friday, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota also said she had changed her position on the issue.

"In speaking with North Dakotans from every corner of our great state, and much personal reflection, I have concluded the federal government should no longer discriminate against people who want to make lifelong, loving commitments to each other or interfere in personal, private, and intimate relationships," Heitkamp said in a statement.

"I view the ability of anyone to marry as a logical extension of this belief. The makeup of families is changing, but the importance of family is enduring."

The announcements by Donnelly, Heitkamp and other Democrats, as well as two Senate Republicans, come as polls show Americans' views have been shifting as well. A Pew Research Center poll last month found 49 percent of respondents support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, while 44 percent said they don't.

And in Indiana, a poll late last year by WISH-TV and Ball State University found that Hoosiers are split on the issue.

Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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