Less than a month ago, not a single Republican senator openly supported gay marriage. Now two of them do. But with public attitudes changing quickly, Rob Portman and Mark Kirk won’t be alone for long. Here are the five Republican senators most likely to jump on the marriage-equality bandwagon next.
1. Lisa Murkowski
A moderate and, since winning re-election in a write-in campaign, increasingly mavericky Republican, Murkowski acknowledged a few days ago that “there is a change afoot in this country in terms of how marriage is viewed” and that she’s “evolving” on the issue. When politicians say they’re “evolving” on gay marriage, it means they’ve changed their mind but aren’t quite ready to announce it yet. We’re sure Murkowski has “endorse gay marriage” circled on her calendar somewhere in the next couple of months.
2. Susan Collins
Collins, another Republican famous for her mavericky voting record, represents a state that recently legalized gay marriage through a ballot initiative. She has a long history of supporting gay equality, and when asked recently where she stands on gay rights, she dodged the question entirely. The only thing potentially holding Collins back at this point is her upcoming re-election in 2014. A marriage-equality stance could hurt her in a GOP primary race, but her numbers are very strong and, when it comes down to it, we don’t expect that she’ll be able to evade the question until then anyway.
3. Saxby Chambliss
The senator’s recent bizarre response to a question on his gay-marriage views — “I’m not gay. So I’m not going to marry one.” — was, in a way, a roundabout way of saying that Chambliss thinks he should be able to marry a gay person if he wanted to. It was also, more broadly, a dodge. Chambliss is retiring at the end of his term, so he may just decide to leave the Senate on the right side of history.
4. Richard Burr
Since his Democratic colleague Kay Hagan came out for gay marriage last week, Burr has been asked a lot about marriage, and he hasn’t been all that adamant about keeping it hetero. Asked a few days ago where he stands on the issue, Burr called it a matter for the states to decide. Pressed on his personal opinion, Burr responded, “My personal opinion is that it’s between a man and a woman, but my role is not to influence what people believe in the state I live in or what the state does that I live in.” Burr was one of only eight Republicans to back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010.
5. John McCain
Asked by Anderson Cooper recently whether he could foresee himself supporting gay marriage, McCain seemed open to the possibility, if only implicitly. “I don’t think so because of my religious beliefs, but I respect anyone else’s decision and we all learn in life and grow and mature.” He also added that his daughter, an outspoken supporter of gay marriage (along with Cindy McCain), “makes strong arguments and I think we ought to continue this dialogue throughout the country.” Don’t be surprised if McCain decides to tells gay-marriage opponents to get off his lawn.