POLITICS
03/28/2013 06:57 pm ET

Bob Casey Pressed On Gay Marriage

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), one of the few Senate Democrats who doesn't back gay marriage, is facing a major push from progressive groups in Pennsylvania to reverse his position.

Equality Pennsylvania, Keystone Progress and MoveOn.org launched a campaign Wednesday urging Casey to join the growing number of Democrats rushing to support gay marriage in the wake of the Supreme Court's consideration of landmark same-sex marriage cases on California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The groups said their efforts resulted in at least 10,000 constituent phone calls and emails to Casey's office Wednesday, marking the latest chapter in a long dialogue between the senator and LGBT advocates.

Casey backs civil unions but not gay marriage, his office told The Huffington Post earlier this week. Spokesman John Rizzo said the senator "is closely following the debate around DOMA" and "intends to thoroughly review any legislation on this when it comes before the Senate."

That response wasn't enough to placate proponents of same-sex marriage, who said they were embarrassed to see Casey's name figure on the diminishing list of Senate Democrats who are yet to change course.

"It wasn't thrilling to see Pennsylvania in the list that he was in -- not only as an LGBT person, but also as a person who knows what's right," Equality Pennsylvania's executive director Ted Martin told HuffPost on Thursday.

"Since the beginning of the week, every day a senator falls, the countdown goes down," he added, noting that Democratic lawmakers from conservative states such as Missouri, Virginia, Montana and North Carolina have stepped on board to support same-sex marriage.

"Hardly bastions of liberality or liberal thought," Martin said of those states. "I think Pennsylvania sits within that category, and I certainly think Pennsylvania would be accepting of his coming out in support of marriage equality."

Gay marriage in the Keystone state doesn't enjoy overwhelming support, although more residents are in favor of it (47 percent) than are opposed (43 percent), according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Not surprisingly, support among Democrats was much broader at 68 percent, but the issue also didn't appear to be particularly contentious among independents and Catholic voters, with at least half of each group favoring same-sex marriage.

Whether that's enough to sway Casey remains uncertain, though a shift is not entirely unlikely. In addition to the domino effect of gay marriage endorsements among his colleagues this week, Casey doesn't have to face voters again until 2018.

HuffPost reached out to Casey's office to gauge whether the assault of calls and emails had any impact on the senator's views. Rizzo reiterated that the senator is keeping a close eye on the debate around DOMA and added that Casey is "as always listening to the viewpoints of his constituents."

Casey's office also acknowledged an increase in call volume, but said they had seen similar trends when other major issues were before Congress.

Martin said the spotlight on gay marriage is different, reflective instead of a civil rights movement picking up steam across the country.

"This is the biggest push that we're going to make," he said. "The time is here. The time is now for [Casey] to simply do this."

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