Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) announced his support for gay marriage Monday, at last joining the growing number of Democrats to embrace marriage equality over the last week.
"After much deliberation and after reviewing the legal, public policy and civil-rights questions presented, I support marriage equality for same-sex couples and believe that DOMA should be repealed," Casey said in an exclusive statement to the Philadelphia Gay News.
"I began to focus on the issue of same-sex marriage much more intensely than I had before,” he added, reflecting on the Supreme Court's consideration of landmark gay marriage cases on California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Casey previously backed civil unions but stopped short of backing gay marriage or even the repeal of DOMA. His office told The Huffington Post twice last week the senator was "closely following the debate around DOMA" but had not changed his position.
A coalition of progressive groups in Pennsylvania intensified the pressure on Casey by targeting his refusal to come around at a time when Democrats from far more conservative states were flipping on the issue. The Huffington Post reported on the groups' campaign, which advocates said stemmed from the senator's appearance on numerous lists identifying the few Democratic holdouts on gay marriage in the Senate.
Equality Pennsylvania, one of the groups that led the push, welcomed Casey's reversal.
"We applaud Senator Casey’s courage and leadership," Equality PA's executive director Ted Martin said in a statement. "Marriage matters for all families, and Senator Casey’s support for marriage for all committed couples puts him squarely on the right side of history."
Casey said the feedback from LGBT Pennsylvanians and their families gave him the final push he needed.
"These stories had a substantial impact on my position on this issue," he told PGN. "If two people of the same sex fall in love and want to marry, why would our government stand in their way? At a time when many Americans lament a lack of commitment in our society between married men and women, why would we want less commitment and fewer strong marriages? If two people of the same sex want to raise children, why would our government prevent them from doing so, especially when so many children have only one parent or none at all?"
Casey was comfortably reelected to a second six-year term in the 2012 election. Although gay marriage doesn't enjoy overwhelming support in Pennsylvania, more residents are in favor of it (47 percent) than are opposed (43 percent), according to recent polling.
UPDATE: State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly gay individual elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, applauded Casey's announcement in a statement on his Facebook page.
"Senator Casey is a thoughtful and contemplative man who today not only listened to the millions of voices of Pennsylvanians calling for him to support same-sex marriage, but strongly voiced that support as well," Sims said. "I am pleased to see Senator Casey responding to the voices of his constituents and am eager to work with him in reaching out to the hundreds of thousands of LGBT Pennsylvanians who can now count on his support for LGBT equality."
Sims joined the fight last week urging Casey to voice his support for marriage equality by penning a letter to the senator.
This is a developing story and has been updated.