March 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Warner comes out in support of marriage equality
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) came out for marriage equality via a Facebook posting (photo public domain)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) came out for marriage equality via a Facebook posting (photo public domain)

The senior senator from Virginia on Monday joined a chorus of prominent public figures who’ve come out in favor of marriage equality.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced his support for marriage rights for gay couples in a Facebook message.

“I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do,” Warner said. “Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone.”

Warner’s announcement is the latest in a string of announcements from public figures — including Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — indicating new support for marriage equality. The senator makes the announcement just before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Much like McCaskill, who came out for marriage equality on Sunday via a posting on Tumblr, Warner announced his new position with little fanfare via a Facebook posting. It’s also noteworthy because Virginia is a state that has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage known as the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which Virginia voters approved in 2006.

The last public statement from Warner’s office on marriage equality was in an article in The National Journal posted on March 1. In that article, Kevin Hall, a Warner spokesperson, said his boss was considering the issue, reportedly saying, “It’s fair to say his thinking on that is evolving.”

But Warner has previously weighed in on the need for married same-sex couples to receive the federal benefits of marriage. The Virginia senator was among the 212 congressional Democrats — including 40 senators — who signed a friend-of-the-court brief calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

In his Facebook posting, Warner touts the work that he’s done on behalf of LGBT people — both as governor and a U.S. senator. Although in 2008 he campaigned in support of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” his position changed after his election and he voted for repeal.

“I was proud to be the first Virginia governor to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT state workers,” Warner writes. “In 2010, I supported an end to the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and earlier this month I signed an amicus brief urging the repeal of DOMA. I believe we should continue working to expand equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s latest congressional scorecard gives Warner 76 points out of a possible 100 points. Warner lost points for not co-sponsoring legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, and the Uniting American Families Act.

Elected as a U.S. senator in 2008 at the same time President Obama was elected to his first term to the White House, Warner’s six-year term will end to an end in 2014.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said he doubts Warner’s new support for marriage equality will have an impact on his 2014 re-election prospects.

“At present Warner has no opposition for reelection and most doubt he will have a truly serious opponent,” Sabato said. “So I doubt his position on gay marriage will have much impact. The ground has shifted dramatically anyway. This isn’t the intense hot button issue it once was.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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