US: Republican Senator announces support for equal marriage after HRC endorsement

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A Republican senator in Maine has become the fourth sitting Republican to indicate support for same-sex marriage, following an endorsement for her re-election from a major gay rights group.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced its support for Senator Susan Collins on Wednesday, despite criticisms that she had not yet come out in favour of same-sex marriage.

Yet mere hours after receiving the HRC endorsement, Senator Collins made an announcement of her own, setting out her support for same-sex marriage.

“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalised same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” the Bangor Daily News reports Senator Collins as saying.

A spokesperson added that, although Senator Collins “doesn’t want to get involved in state-level referendum issues”, the support was an expression of her personal stance.

She is only the fourth incumbent Republican senator to express support for same-sex marriage.

Senator Collins will be seeking re-election against Democrat candidate Shenna Bellows, who is running on a platform of promoting LGBT equality on a federal level. Following the HRC announcement, Ms Bellows called Collins out on her lack of a clear position on same-sex marriage.

“My opponent, Republican Susan Collins, had the chance to speak up in favour of marriage equality in 2012 or any time in the previous decade,” Ms Bellows said in a statement. “Two years after her constituents made their feelings known at the ballot box, she has refused to break her silence.”

Maine voted in support of marriage equality in 2012, although the state’s Republicans reaffirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage in their platform earlier this year.

When asked last year by the Associated Press for her views on same-sex marriage, Senator Collins stated her belief that the issue should be dealt with on a state, rather than a federal, level.

Nevertheless, the HRC are endorsing Senator Collins as a result of her work to end the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation, the ban on openly gay US troops which was repealed in 2011.

Senator Collins has also been praised by the HRC for her work on Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA was passed by the Senate last year, but is being blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Several LGBT rights groups have since dropped their support for ENDA, following concessions to religious groups.