Sen. Hagan latest Democrat to declare support for same-sex marriage

Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.) on Wednesday became the latest Democratic senator to announce her support for same-sex marriage, as the Supreme Court weighs two landmark cases on gay rights.

In an interview on Wednesday, Hagan told the Raleigh News & Observer "we should not tell people who they can love or who they can marry."

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

"I know all our families do not look alike. We all want the same thing for our families. We want happiness, we want health, prosperity, a bright future for our children and grandchildren,” Hagan continued.

Hagan said that she had discussed the issue with her family and thought about it deeply before reaching her decision.

“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,” she said. “It’s time to move forward with this issue."

Hagan follows a number of other prominent Democratic senators this week, including many from swing states or traditionally Republican strongholds, who have publicly embraced gay marriage. Earlier this week Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced their support.

Hagan's announcement means there are nine Democrats in the Senate who have not endorsed same-sex marriage. They are Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.).

The spate of announcements come as the Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman and denying benefits to same-sex couples.

On Tuesday, the high court considered a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, and on Wednesday is considering the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Hagan is up for reelection in 2014 in a state that passed an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Hagan said that her reelection was not a factor in her announcement.

"I’ve never made a decision based on future elections," Hagan said to the North Carolina newspaper. "I’m not interested in that. I’m not interested in casting aspersions on those who view this differently."

Updated at 11:53 a.m.