Florida Senator Bill Nelson became the latest Democrat to reverse his opposition to gay marriage Thursday.
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Nelson wrote:
“It is generally accepted in American law and U.S. society today ‘… that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ I believe that. The civil rights and responsibilities for one must pertain to all.
“Thus, to discriminate against one class and not another is wrong for me.
“If we are endowed by our Creator with rights, then why shouldn’t those be attainable by Gays and Lesbians?
“Simply put, if The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn’t, and I won’t.
“So I will add my name to the petition of senators asking the Supreme Court to declare the law that prohibits gay marriage unconstitutional.”
With Nelson’s endorsement, only six Democratic senators remain opposed to gay marriage. These senators are Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota.
“People say, ‘Why now?’ ” Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Nelson, told the Tampa Bay Times. “Well it’s because the cases that went before the Supreme Court and the public debate that has ensued. During this discourse, Sen. Nelson has heard from a lot of constituents. The way he goes about his job is to always treat people with civility and respect and hear what they have to say.”
Progressive groups have urged Democrats to come out in favor of marriage equality, and the pressure is only mounting. Nelson, a moderate Democrat that generally avoids controversy, found himself in the spotlight as attention shifted not to the Democrats that endorsed gay marriage, but to those that had yet to.