April 5, 2013 at 11:25 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Heitkamp, Donnelly come out for same-sex marriage
Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana, North Dakota, United States Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sens. Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have come out for same-sex marriage (Photos public domain)

A pair of newcomers to the Senate Democratic caucus who hail from what are considered “red” states have become the latest in ongoing trend of U.S. senators coming out for marriage equality.

In separate statements on Friday morning, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) made their announcements in support for same-sex marriage.

Heitkamp, who issued a statement on her website, based her new support for same-sex marriage on the belief that the federal government shouldn’t be able to discriminate against gay couples.

“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. “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 an announcement via Facebook, Donnelly also said he’s concluded that same-sex couples should be able to marry while touting his LGBT record in his previous role as a U.S. House member as well as opposition to constitutional amendments — within Indiana and at the federal level — banning same-sex marriage.

“With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes,” Donnelly said. “In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all.”

But Donnelly has a less than stellar voting record on LGBT issues. On one hand, He voted for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in May 2010 even before the Pentagon issued its report on open service. On the other, Donnelly voted for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, but only after voting “yes” on the motion to recommit, which would have killed the bill. Donnelly voted against hate crimes protection legislation in 2010.

Heitkamp and Donnelly’s support means only four Democratic senators haven’t made announcements in favor of marriage equality: Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Virtually the entire Republican caucus hasn’t made any announcements in favor of marriage equality — with the exception of Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), as we reported previously.

Their announcements also cap off a week in which a total of six U.S. senators have announced their support for marriage equality. Heitkamp and Donnelly are joining Kirk, Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

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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