So Who are the Democratic Senate Hold-Outs on Marriage Equality?

(Landrieu, Pryor, and Hagan)

As you've noticed in the last three days, U.S. Senate Democrats have been scrambling to get on board with marriage equality before the Supreme Court hears arguments with Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), and Mark Begich (AK) all signaling their support in the last two days.

So who's left?

TIME reports, and breaks it down:

The 11 remaining Senate Democrats who have not endorsed gay marriage publicly are: Mark Pryor (Ark.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Bill Nelson (Fl.), Jon Tester (Mt.), Tom Carper (Del.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.). They can be broken down into three groups.

The first group was blunt in their opposition. The offices of Senators Manchin, Johnson and Pryor each responded to TIME in one or two sentences point-blank that they still don’t endorse gay marriage. Each of these Senators represents a conservative state, and West Virginia, South Dakota and Arkansas all went heavily for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

TIME hit a wall speaking to the second group — Senators Landrieu, Tester and Donnelly — none of whom responded for comment. Louisiana, Montana and Indiana also went red in the past presidential election. Of the second group, Senator Donnelly might be able to look to his Midwestern neighbor for cover. Donnelly has endorsed benefits for gay partners in the past and said, “I stand with Rob on much of this” after Portman endorsed gay marriage after his son told him he was gay.

The rest — Senators Casey, Nelson, Carper, Heitkamp and Hagan — still do not endorse gay marriage, but are making clear signals that they are more moderate than some. Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said he “strongly supports civil rights for same-sex couples, while believing marriage should be between a man and a woman.” He added that the decision might be out of the Senator’s hands, as “the issue will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court before the end of the year.”


  1. Jorge says

    Thanks for the update. Sort of sad because I’m pretty sure Tester has a gay son.

    I guess the family love only takes him as far as his state’s politics for him?

  2. Kevin says

    Jorge,Jon Testor is on the record as supporting civil unions.
    All the grief Portman is getting and not a lot of it towards Testor,who basically is sticking behind Montana’s gay marriage ban which doesn’t allow civil unions.

  3. Disappointed says

    Jon Tester is an embarassment. His son Shon is openly gay in Washington DC. The fact that he’s willing to sell his own flesh and blood short for the sake of politics shows what kind of man Jon Tester actually is.

  4. Kevin says

    Jon Testor did push for the repeal of DADT,supports civil unions etc but for all the grief Rob Portman gets,Jon Tester was NOT at all happy about Obama coming out for gay marriage before the elections in 2012.

  5. Aaron says

    Not a super accurate list. For example, Jay Rockefeller is recently on record opposing DOMA, but had not announced his support for marriage equality. Even Rand Paul is on record being ambivalent about DOMA.

  6. andrew says

    What do you gain if we pressure a democratic Senator from a mostly Red State to support gay marriage and he looses his next election because of it and we (Democrats) loose control of the U.S.Senate?

  7. Patric says

    Andrew, Owen and t, agree with you. These cases are not all created equal.

    This is just one of multiple issues on which Carper has been insufficiently progressive. Delaware is a blue enough state – and has a passionate advocate for equality in its other U.S. Senator – that it deserves better than Carper.

    Casey is a social conservative who is pro-life but who recently joined a letter for gay rights (perhaps re ENDA?). Unfortunately, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a great track record of electing progressive Senators and this is the result. Almost exactly the same response re Donnelly of Indiana.

    Bill Nelson is a 70-year old who was raised a Baptist. I give him no pass because he’s not up for re-election for another six years but, given his biography, I’m not holding my breath waiting for him to change his position. Manchin and Pryor are even more decidedly social conservatives representing very socially conservative states so, beyond perhaps getting their support in opposing adoption bans or something of the like, I wouldn’t expect much if anything from either of them.

    Heitkamp won’t be up for re-election for another six years and, personally, I wish she’d show a little more guts on this issue. She’s already, unfortunately, shored up her bona fides with conservatives with her statements on gun legislation.

    Hagan and Landrieu, imo, are the two here who most deserve a pass, for the reason suggested by andrew. They both face tough re-election campaigns in what could be a tough year for Dems nationally next year. Coming out for marriage equality will not help their re-election prospects and having an anti-equality Republican elected to either of those seats would very much not be in the interests of our community. I note that Hagan opposed the constitutional amendment which passed rather overwhelmingly in North Carolina last year (despite its breadth, banning CUs as well as marriage).

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