Sen. Kay Hagan said Wednesday that she supported the right of gay people to marry, saying “we should not tell people who they can love or who they can marry.”
Hagan, one of the few Democratic senators who had not previously come out in support of gay marriage, announced her support as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on a U.S. law that denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples.
“I know there are strong feelings on both sides, and I have a great deal of respect for their opinions,” Hagan said in an interview. “But after much thought and prayer on my part this is where I am today.
“I know all our families do not look alike,” she added. “We all want the same thing for our families. We want happiness, we want health, prosperity, a bright future for our children and grandchildren. After conversations I’ve had with family members, with people I go to church with and with North Carolinians from all walks of life, I’ve come to my own personal conclusion that we should not tell people who they can love, or who they can marry. It’s time to move forward with this issue.”
This was a difficult choice for Hagan who faces a potentially faces a tough re-election campaign next year in a culturally conservative state. North Carolina voters last year overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment declaring marriage as being between a man and a woman.
“I’m not interested in playing political pundit,” Hagan said when asked how she thought her stance would effect her re-election prospects. “I’ve never made a decision based on future elections. I’m not interested in that. I’m not interested in casting aspersions on those who view this differently.”
Hagan opposed last year’s amendment as did many Democrats for whom she must rely on for support.
She was one of 10 remaining Senate Democrats who have not endorsed gay marriage publicly. The others are Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Bill Nelson of Florida, Tom Carper of Delaware, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
Hagan said she came to her decision over time, comparing her decision to Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. She also said that no church should ever have to conduct a ceremony “that is inconsistent with their religious belief.”
Hagan said that while she was discussing a hot button social issue Wednesday, her chief focus in the Senate was on the economy and jobs.