Murkowski penned a lengthy op-ed on her website recalling eating lunch with a family who visited her office. They adopted not one, not two, but four children. And by all accounts seemed like any normal family. The parents are Alaskans, one’s in the National Guard.
“If one had gotten sick, the one who had adopted, the one was not officially recognized as a spouse, that all the love she had given those children, every ounce of parenting she had lovingly given, would have not been recognized by the law,” she said Wednesday afternoon.
That’s because the parents are both women. Murkowski said that experience, along with a growing acceptance of same-sex marriage throughout the country, forced her to reflect on her stance. She said it took her about a year to settle on her new position.
“Protection of freedom, government limitation in our lives, religious liberty; those are pretty conservative principles,” she said.
Many of her colleagues disagree. Arkansas Senator John Boozman, a fellow Republican, said a visceral issue like marriage is too serious for party principles.
“I think it’s beyond that,” he said. “I think it’s something, individuals see a deepness to this. You need to look at what’s best for families, what’s best for raising children.”
Many observers say the political debate is over, that opposing gay marriage is a losing argument. But Murkowski said the debate is far from finished and many are still wrestling with the issue.
Others have settled in opposition.
“I just think once you change the definition of marriage, you’re asking for it,” said Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.
Just two months ago, the Republican National Committee affirmed its opposition to gay marriage.
Murkowski, who supported Alaska’s constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in 1998, sought the advice of Republican Senator Rob Portman. She wanted to know how his Ohio constituents reacted when he announced his support for gay marriage in March.
She’s not looking to lead the GOP on the issue.
“I did not make the announcement I did in an effort to start a parade. I felt it was important to be honest and clear with Alaskans on where I stood,” she said.
The announcement comes in advance of what is sure to be a major national dialogue on the issue. The Supreme Court is set to rule on two gay marriage cases as early as Thursday.