South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson announced support for gay marriage Monday, leaving only three Democratic senators still opposed to same-sex marriage.
“After lengthy consideration, my views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equality legislation,” Johnson said in a brief statement. “This position doesn’t require any religious denomination to alter any of its tenets; it simply forbids government from discrimination regarding who can marry whom.”
Johnson was one of the last Democratic holdouts on the issue of gay marriage. He has announced that he is not running for re-election, leaving speculation over whether he would feel pressured whatsoever to alter his position.
Progressive groups have put increased pressure on Democratic senators in recent weeks to come out in favor in gay marriage. As the issue entered the halls of the Supreme Court several weeks ago, endorsements from Democratic politicians gradually shifted from a trickle to a flood.
Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana remain opposed to same-sex marriage. Last week, Manchin told Talking Points Memo that he will not be shifting his position on the issue of gay marriage.
“I believe that a marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” Manchin said. “My beliefs are guided by my faith, and I support the Defense of Marriage Act.”
Pryor told a local television station Friday to put him in the undecided category. This is not an endorsement, but his middle-of-the-road stance could leave him vulnerable to political pressure to produce one. The senator is seeking a third term in the 2014 election, complicating matters.
While the Pew Research Center has released a recent study showing that more Americans now support gay marriage than oppose it, that support is not spread evenly across the country. The remaining senators are facing re-election in deeply conservative states. Endorsing gay marriage could potentially leave them vulnerable to their Republican opponents or Democratic primary challengers seeking to run to their right.
Regardless, Tim Johnson’s endorsement gives gay marriage advocates even more reason to keep up the fight.