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A majority of senators now support gay marriage rights after Florida Sen. Bill Nelson became the latest member to issue a reversal on the issue Thursday.
Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times that he has reconsidered his opposition to allowing same-sex couples to marry, citing the nation’s Founding Fathers. He is the 51st senator to back gay marriage rights, although any significant vote on the issue would certainly require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
Noting that the Declaration of Independence declares that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” Nelson said he believes civil rights “must pertain to all. Thus, to discriminate against one class and not another is wrong for me.”
He continued, “If we are endowed by our creator with rights, then why shouldn’t those be attainable by gays and lesbians? 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, who just won re-election in 2012 and doesn’t face voters again until 2018, added that he will add his name to a petition of senators who have asked the Supreme Court to strike down laws that ban gay marriage.
Nelson is the latest in a string of mostly Democratic senators reversing their positions on the issue. Two Republicans, Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois have come out in support of gay marriage rights.
Nelson’s change leaves just six Senate Democrats who don’t support same-sex marriage: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.