POLITICS
03/28/2013 11:33 am ET | Updated Mar 28, 2013

Jon Tester Explains Gay Marriage Evolution

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Thursday that his decision to publicly support same-sex marriage was driven by personal interactions with gay couples in his home state.

"I just think it’s time. You know, I spent most of my life – and I’m 56 years of age – on a farm 12 miles west of Big Sandy," Tester said during an interview on HuffPost Live. "And over the last six years for sure, and some time before that, I’ve gotten to know a lot of different people, a lot of folks that I normally wouldn’t know, and found them all to be good and I respect [them]. So I guess it’s broadening the horizons that I had before that’s gotten me to this point.

"I think it’s just the people you run into, the people you meet, the goodness in people and the example they set," Tester continued. "And it just kind of takes away a lot of the stereotypes that were in my head and I got to a point where, you know, I asked myself as a policymaker, as a U.S. senator, is it right that I should be denying somebody the right of happiness? And it wasn’t and that’s why we made a decision."

This past week, Tester was one of several Democratic senators who announced that they had evolved on the issue of marriage equality. His show of support was one of the more unexpected, owing to his gruff public persona and the political leanings of his home state. But Tester, who said he made his decision just a few days ago, explained that his decision was driven in part by libertarian-type skepticism of federal government overreach.

"I really think that people’s right to happiness shouldn’t be dictated by some policymaker in Washington, D.C.," he said. "I’ve come to know a lot of people that –- sexual orientation is such where they're in love with people from the same sex, and I just don’t think it’s our role in the government to say no you can’t be married. They love one another just as much as my wife and I love one another or more. And I think it’s important that we give them that ability to be happy."

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