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Alaska's Murkowski backs marriage equality

In March and April, there was a flurry of activity in the Senate, with nearly a dozen members announcing their support for marriage equality over the course of a few weeks. It's been a little quiet since then, though there was a bit of a breakthrough this morning.

Today, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced that she supports marriage equality. Murkowski joins two of her Republican colleagues -- Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois -- in endorsing the right of committed and loving gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin released the following statement in response to the news: "Senator Murkowski's courageous and principled announcement today sends a clear message that marriage equality must come to all 50 states in this country. As the Supreme Court prepares to rule in two landmark marriage cases this month, a growing bipartisan coalition is standing up for the right of all couples to marry -- and there is no turning back that tide."

Overall, if my count is right, there are now 54 sitting U.S. senators who support equal-marriage rights (it would be 55, but Frank Lautenberg's recent passing lowers the total by one), and 51 of the 54 are Democrats.

But that in turn is what makes Murkowski's announcement especially noteworthy: she's a red-state Republican. The more bipartisan support marriage equality has, the faster the arc of history will continue to bend towards justice. [Update: the Alaska senator explains her position in a statement released this morning, which is well worth reading.]

In related news, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) late yesterday, bringing the total of co-sponsors to 52. All but four Senate Democrats have now signed on to the legislation.

The fact that the bill has majority support in the Senate is heartening, though it's worth noting that under current norms in the chamber, ENDA would be subject to a Republican filibuster, which the bill cannot yet overcome.