Bill Nelson Backs Gay Marriage

04/04/2013 05:52 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2013

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) announced his support for gay marriage Thursday, becoming the 51st senator to do so.

"If we are endowed by our Creator with rights, then why shouldn't those be attainable by gays and lesbians?" Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times. "Simply put, if The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn't, and I won't."

Nelson's support came after numerous Democratic senators backed gay marriage in advance of Supreme Court cases on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8. Two Democratic senators, Bob Casey (Pa.) and Tom Carper (Del.), declared their support earlier this week. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) became the second Republican senator to back gay marriage, following Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

Six remaining Democratic senators do not support gay marriage. Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) all do not support gay marriage. All of the states they hail from are substantially more conservative than the perennial swing state of Florida that Nelson represents; all six states went for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

Equality Florida launched a Twitter campaign aimed at Nelson on Tuesday, pushing him to back gay marriage. The Florida senator won a third term in 2012.

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