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South Dakota Senator backs same-sex marriage

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April 15, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson, who announced his retirement last month, reversed his position on same-sex marriage, announcing on April 8, 2013 that he supports the legalization of same-sex unions.[1]

The announcement reverses the position the Democrat has held for years.[1] Johnson had previously said that he doesn’t support gay marriage, and he voted for the 1996 federal law that defined marriage as the union of a man and woman and provided that a state did not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.[1]

In a written statement on April 8, Johnson explained his change of heart saying, “After lengthy consideration, my views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equality legislation. This position doesn’t require any religious denomination to alter any of its tenets; it simply forbids government from discrimination regarding who can marry whom.”[1]

The announcement from Johnson comes amidst a series of announcements from other U.S. Senators. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Joe Donnelly (D) announced their support for same-sex marriage on April 1st,Bill Nelson (D) threw his support behind marriage equality on April 7th, and Tom Carper (D) endorsed it on April 5th.[2] Johnson was the 54th Senator to express backing of same-sex marriage.[3]

Only three remaining Democratic Senators have not publicly backed gay marriage: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin from West Virginia, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Landrieu and Pryor face re-election in 2014, while Manchin is not up for re-election until 2018.[2][4]

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