Following President Obama, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer has made an endorsement of marriage equality. This is following his previous support for civil unions. From his statement:
One of the first votes I cast as a member of the Maryland State Senate in 1967 was to repeal the anti-miscegenation statute that remained Maryland law. It was a legacy of a discriminatory history of prejudice and segregation. It was my feeling then and now that individuals have a right to choose their partners, and society must accord them that freedom.
We now confront a variation of that miscegenation issue, and that has been what to call the relationship between two people of the same gender. The word ‘marriage’ has held a specific meaning for centuries as the union between a man and a woman. But it has also meant, in a broader sense, a commitment of one person to another, recognized by each of them and by society.
I have believed that the phrase ‘civil union’ was an appropriate definition of a relationship that is both different and the same between two people of the same sex. And I have believed strongly that such couples must be treated equally under the law.
Because I believe that equal treatment is a central tenet of our nation, I believe that extending the definition of marriage to committed relationships between two people, irrespective of their sex, is the right thing to do and will not, in any way, undermine the institution of marriage so important to our society nor impose a threat to any individual marriage. It will, however, extend the respect due to every one of our fellow citizens that we would want for ourselves and our children.
This is a huge day. With Hoyer's "evolution" complete, that means that almost every single top Democratic leader--President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and now House Democratic Whip Hoyer--support the freedom to marry. There is still no word on House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn. I called his Washington office to inquire about his position, but I was told there was nobody in the office who could answer and that I should call back on Monday. We may want to pressure him to clarify his position.
But what a difference the President's statement has made in just a few days. We are now in a completely different world, in which all Democratic leaders embrace marriage equality. And this is very likely only the tip of the iceberg--I expect that we'll see many more endorsements from down-ticket Democrats in the days, weeks, and months to come.
Way to go, President Obama. And Vice President Biden, for uttering those words on Meet the Press.