Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has become the 54th sitting senator, and third Republican, to back gay marriage.
Murkowski told of her evolution on the issue in an op-ed posted on her website, telling the story of an Alaskan lesbian couple, one of whom had served in the Alaska National Guard, and their four adopted children.
"Despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses," Murkowski wrote. "After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room — and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner. They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide. This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence."
Murkowski couched her support for gay marriage in conservative principles of freedom and family values.
"I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives — while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another. ... I believe when there are so many forces pulling our society apart, we need more commitment to marriage, not less."
Murkowski's decision was cheered by advocates for marriage equality.
“As the Supreme Court prepares to rule in two landmark marriage cases this month, a growing bipartisan coalition is standing up for the right of all couples to marry — and there is no turning back that tide," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
“We hope other fair-minded conservatives like Senator Murkowski stand up and join her. Alaska may be nicknamed ‘the Last Frontier,’ but we’ve got to make sure that LGBT Alaskans don’t have to wait to find justice.”
You can Murkowski's full op-ed on Murkowski's site. GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois have also come out in favor of allowing gay marriage.