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North Carolina's Hagan latest to back marriage equality

Sen. Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina
Sen. Kay Hagan (D) of North CarolinaGetty Images

Will the rush among Democratic lawmakers to announce their support for marriage equality continue? Apparently, yes -- Sen. Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina said this morning that she supports the right of same-sex couples to marry, telling the News & Observer, "[W]e should not tell people who they can love or who they can marry."

Hagan, one of the few Democratic senators who had not previously come out in support of gay marriage, announced her support as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on a U.S. law that denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples.

"I know there are strong feelings on both sides, and I have a great deal of respect for their opinions," Hagan said in an interview. "But after much thought and prayer on my part this is where I am today.

"I know all our families do not look alike," she added. "We all want the same thing for our families. We want happiness, we want health, prosperity, a bright future for our children and grandchildren. After conversations I've had with family members, with people I go to church with and with North Carolinians from all walks of life, I've come to my own personal conclusion that we should not tell people who they can love, or who they can marry. It's time to move forward with this issue."

Following up on yesterday's tally, there are 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, 46 of whom have now publicly declared for marriage equality. That's obviously short of 100%, but given the recent push, unanimity appears inevitable. (Among the 45 Senate Republicans, only one supports same-sex marriage.)

Hagan's announcement, however, is of particular interest because she's a Democrat up for re-election in 2014 in a Southern "red" state. Asked if she feared electoral punishment for standing up for marriage rights, the senator added, "I'm not interested in playing political pundit. I've never made a decision based on future elections."

The news out of North Carolina further pressures the remaining nine Senate Democrats who have not yet endorsed marriage equality: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Bill Nelson of Florida, Tom Carper of Delaware, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Of those nine, Tom Carper is the only Democrat from a reliably "blue" state who remains on the fence.