From Indiana Public Broadcasting - News Local/State -

Indiana Democratic Senator Backs Same-Sex Marriage

Joe Donnelly

Democrat Joe Donnelly thanks supporters after winning the U.S. Senate race over Republican Richard Mourdock at an election night celebration in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (Michael Conroy/AP)

Indiana Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has announced his support of same-sex marriage, joining a growing chorus of lawmakers who say they support it

In a statement released Friday on his Facebook page, Sen. Donnelly said he opposes amending both the Indiana and U.S. constitutions to ban same-sex marriage – much as a proposed amendment to Indiana’s constitution would do if passed a second time by the General Assembly and then by voters. 

“While serving in the House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to act on a core belief of mine: we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans. I voted to repeal ‘don't ask, don't tell’ and was an original supporter of the bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexual orientation," Donnelly siad. "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.”

Donnelly was not available Friday for an interview.

Wally Paynter is the president of the Tri-State Alliance, an Evansville-based lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender support organization. He said Donnelly’s support of same-sex marriage could help boost the cause in the General Assembly.

“I think he’s giving cover for other moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans to come out in favor of equality and in favor of same-sex marriage,” Paynter said.

American Family Association of Indiana executive director Micah Clark said Donnelly’s support will not change the minds of Hoosiers, who have come out in opposition to allowing same-sex couples to get married.

“There are many Democrats, particularly in Indiana and southern Indiana, who still understand that marriage is between a man and a woman," Clark said. "So I think the issue could backfire because Donnelly’s position will be a wedge between he and the moderate base.”

If the General Assembly passes the marriage amendment next session, it will go on the ballot in fall of 2014. 

Also on Friday, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) announed her support of support same-sex marriage in a posting on Facebook.

"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. "I view the ability of anyone to marry as a logical extension of this belief."

Donnelly said he reconsidered his opposition to same-sex marriage after recent Supreme Court arguments and public discussion on the issue.

"I have been thinking about my past positions and votes," he said. "In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all."

Donnelly and Heitkamp are the latest Democratic senators to announce their support for same-sex marriage. They were elected in 2012, winning close races in states that were handily carried by GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

There are now only four Democrats in the Senate who have not expressed support for same-sex marriage: Sens. Mark Pryor, of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia.

Two Republican Senators, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio, have announced their support for same-sex marriage.