After years of opposing redefining marriage to include unions between same-sex couples, a number of senators—most recently Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk—have announced that they now support gay marriage.
Kirk, only the second Republican in the chamber to declare his support after Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman did so last month, said Tuesday that he now believes that the "government has no place in the middle" of two people who love each other.
Kirk's announcement, made in a statement posted on his website, arrived just hours after Delaware Democratic Sen. Tom Carper wrote on his Facebook page that after "a great deal of soul searching" he had concluded that "all Americans ultimately should be free to marry the people they love and intend to share their lives with, regardless of their sexual orientation."
Just a day before, Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey made his own declaration of support, following the lead of several Senate Democrats who over the last week or so endorsed same-sex marriage.
With Carper and Casey's announcements, only seven Senate Democrats still oppose same-sex marriage: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tim Johnson of South Dakota.
Pressure continues to build on the Democratic holdouts—many of whom face re-election battles next year. Liberal advocacy groups like MoveOn.org are currently conducting coordinated campaigns to sway the remaining senators.
Recent national surveys suggest that public opinion is swinging in favor of granting same-sex couples the legal right to marry. A national ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted last month found that 58 percent of Americans now support allowing same-sex marriage. Ten years ago, only 37 percent believed the government should recognize same-sex marriages. Last week the Supreme Court heard two cases on the subject, which addressed the constitutionality of a voter-approved measure that banned same-sex marriages in California and the Defense of Marriage Act.