The 6 ways senators say 'I now support gay marriage' (interactive)

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Since Joe Biden blurted out his support for same-sexmarriage nearly a year ago, 23 U.S. Senators have formally endorsed it in statements orinterviews.

These "I now support same-sex marriage" statements have a certain mechanical poetry. Thespeaker is admitting that at some previous point, he or she did not. I thinkthe penal implications of flip-flopping have been sufficientlylamented,but let's at least acknowledge the point: These are politicians going out oftheir way to emphasize that they have changed their minds.

Some go further than others. Claire McCaskill wrote a four-paragraphblog post that meditated on the difficulties of the decision and called on Corinthians for an assist. When SouthDakota Democrat Tim Johnson issuedhis reversal on Monday, he did so in 37 words that begin: "After lengthyconsideration, my views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equalitylegislation."

It's easy to findcommon themes running through these messages. McCaskill, Kay Hagan, D-N.C., andTom Carper, D-Del., all cite the influence of conversations with their familiesand friends. Hagan and a few others cite their religion.

I found six themes in reading through all the statements. They are as follows, with examples:

Love is all you need. See Tom Udall, D-N.M.:

"Two people, who are committed to one another, who love one another, should not be denied the fundamental right of marriage, or the legal rights that marriage includes."

Marriage is a civil right. See Biden:

"I amabsolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marryingwomen, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the sameexact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties."

I've evolved. See Mark Warner, D-Va.:

"Like manyVirginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this isthe inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity foreveryone."

My faith supports it. See Hagan:

"But aftermuch thought and prayer on my part, this is   where I am today."

It's right for Democracy. Udall again:

"Our Constitution enshrines the principle of equality – equal rights for all."

Some of my best friends… Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.:

"In talking with my children and grandchildren, it has become clear to me they takemarriage equality as a given."

What follows is alist of every statement made since Biden's, including President Barack Obama'sand former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's, coded by which of the sixmajor themes I found. This list does not include the 34 current senatorswho had already confirmed their support by the time Biden did, since theytypically did so with less fanfare.


The "I've evolved"category is interesting not only because of the flip-flop implications. Manypeople are changing their minds on this subject, as pollsters discover againand again. It is not only the handful of Democratic senators who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act who seemto feel the need to emphasize that this is a phase shift. The implication, Ithink, is that—unlike war, health care, abortion, deficit reduction, tax hikes,a chained-CPI model of social security, Gitmo, immigrationreform, assault weapon bans and climate change—unlike virtually everythingelse, gay marriage is one topic on which it's politically acceptable to change your mind.

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