Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly Back Gay Marriage

04/05/2013 10:17 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2013

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), both hailing from deeply red states, announced on Friday their support for gay marriage.

"In speaking with North Dakotans from every corner of our great state, and much personal reflection, I have concluded the federal government should no longer discriminate against people who want to make lifelong, loving commitments to each other or interfere in personal, private, and intimate relationships," Heitkamp said in a statement. "I view the ability of anyone to marry as a logical extension of this belief. The makeup of families is changing, but the importance of family is enduring."

"In recent years, our country has been involved in an important discussion on the issue of marriage equality," Donnelly said on Facebook. "While serving in the House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to act on a core belief of mine: we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans. I voted to repeal ‘don't ask, don't tell’ and was an original supporter of the bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexual orientation."

"It is also for that reason that I oppose amending either Indiana’s or our nation’s constitution to enshrine in those documents an 'us' and a 'them,' instead of a 'we,'" he continued. "With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all."

Heitkamp and Donnelly join several other Democratic senators who have recently made statements backing marriage equality, including Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Support from Heitkamp and Donnelly is particularly notable, however, because both come from states that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and generally elect Republicans. However, neither face reelection until 2018, and if public opinion continues its dramatic shift in favor of same-sex marriage, the issue may become less controversial.

Only four remaining Democratic senators have not publicly backed gay marriage: Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Landrieu and Pryor face re-election in 2014 in Southern red states. Johnson is retiring in 2014, but there is a movement to draft his son to run for his seat. Manchin, like Donnelly and Heitkamp, is not up for reelection until 2018.

The only Republican senators who have expressed their support for marriage equality are Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

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