Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida backs marriage equality

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, announced his support for marriage equality on April 4.

Nelson, in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, said, “It is generally accepted in American law and U.S. society today '... that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.' I believe that. The civil rights and responsibilities for one must pertain to all.

“Thus, to discriminate against one class and not another is wrong for me. If we are endowed by our Creator with rights, then why shouldn't those be attainable by Gays and Lesbians?"

"Simply put, if The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn't, and I won't.

"So I will add my name to the petition of senators asking the Supreme Court to declare the law that prohibits gay marriage unconstitutional.”

And the list of senators supporting marriage equality has grown considerably in the days before and after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

There are now only six Democrats in the U.S. Senate who have not taken a stand for marriage equality.

On the Republican side, two men – Rob Portman and Mark Kirk – have endorsed marriage equality.

“I am thrilled that Bill Nelson listened to the voices of Floridians and to his own conscience,” said Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, the statewide LGBT civil rights group. “The senator has an admirable record on so many issues that this blind spot stood out as incongruous to the principles he has espoused for years. His voice matters a great deal and his evolution on equality is a roadmap for others to understand that it is wrong to inflict financial burdens and to impose the indignity of second class citizenship on our families.”

The Democratic senators who have not endorsed marriage equality are:

• Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

• Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

• Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

• Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

• Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

• Mark Pryor of Arkansas