Senate gay-marriage pool update: Lisa Murkowski says her views are "evolving"

Does this count as a “yes” on SSM for purposes of the pool? Susan Collins’s dodge was transparently an attempt to avoid further irritating conservatives when she’s staring at a Republican primary in Maine next year. Murkowski’s not under quite the same time pressure as she’s not up again until 2016. Could be that her reservations are legit. But maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way: Because Collins comes from a blue state, she has to sound friendly-ish to gay marriage no matter what her true views might be or else she’s potentially in trouble in the general election. Murkowski faces no similar dilemma in a red state like Alaska. She could take an adamantly anti-SSM line and likely benefit from it (or at least suffer no consequences for it) in both the primary and the general. The fact that she’s not taking that line but rather sounds about as friendly-ish as Collins suggests that she too secretly supports gay marriage and is simply hedging to make things a little easier for herself if/when she runs again for Senate. Remember, she’s already been successfully primaried once before; she knows the risk in not taking a hard enough line, and yet she’s refusing to take it anyway. That shows some commitment to the pro-SSM side.

I’m going to count it. Congratulations to cmsinaz, who defied conventional wisdom by picking Murky over the handful of Democratic holdouts as the next SSM domino to fall in our pool!

When asked about same sex marriage — which is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in two separate cases — Murkowski seemed to indicate a softening on her previous stance.

“I’ve got two young sons who, when I ask them and their friends how they feel about gay marriage, kinda give me one of those looks like, ‘Gosh mom, why are you even asking that question?'”…

“We have so many issues in this country to focus on that worry us, that I question why there is such focus on the simple right of people to love whom they will,” she said.

This is the only political issue I can think of where United States Senators routinely cite their children’s opinions as a guiding star for how they should vote. I’m not even thinking of Rob Portman, who cited his son in declaring his support for SSM but not because of his “opinion”; I’m thinking of Claire McCaskill, who felt obliged to note that “my children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial.” Plenty of kids also have a hard time understanding why weed is illegal, but apart from Rand Paul, there seems to be zero movement in the Senate towards legalizing marijuana. If you believe Pew, support for making abortion legal in all or most cases runs highest among the 18-29 group at 64 percent. (Fun fact: A majority of the same group doesn’t know which issue Roe v. Wade dealt with.) Why no Senate GOP swing towards pro-choice in the name of letting the children lead us? I support SSM but I do so on the merits, not because my politics is shaped by 15-year-olds. For all his faults, McCain’s quite blunt about why the GOP’s suddenly seen the light on amnesty: “Elections. Elections.” Wish Murky and McCaskill would be that honest about their own demographic motivations vis-a-vis SSM.

In case you disagree that Murkowski’s comments above should count for purposes of the pool, here’s a bit more from another interview she did. Does this sound like someone who’s still “evolving”?

“The term ‘evolving view’ has been perhaps overused, but I think it is an appropriate term for me to use,” she said in an address at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, according to the Chugiak-Eagle River Star.

Murkowski elaborated on her stance to Alaska Public Radio. “I think you are seeing a change in attitude, change in tolerance, I guess, and an acceptance that what marriage should truly be about is a lasting, loving, committed relationship with respect to the individual,” she said.

That’s not the sort of phrasing you typically see from someone who still has reservations. The word “evolving” is itself a giveaway. Has anyone who’s ever used that term to describe their views on gay marriage eventually reversed course and decided no, turns out they can’t support gay marriage after all? Wouldn’t that, per their own rhetoric, constitute “devolution”? If you’re starting out anti-SSM and inching your way towards being on the fence, chances are you’ve already heard, considered, and dismissed any arguments that might have kept you firmly in the opposition. What’s stopping most of these politicians from “evolving” the rest of the way is, I suspect, pure risk assessment. How far can they go towards supporting gay marriage before this issue starts to hurt them politically? Democrats from blue states can go pretty far, which is why there are only 10 or so left in the caucus who haven’t endorsed the practice yet. (Read Noah Rothman at Mediaite about the Dems who’ve waited until now, at a moment of maximum political safety, to finally declare their support.) Republicans can’t go far at all, so “evolution” is going to take much longer. But maybe, per Murky and Collins, not as long as we think.

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