Bucking the trend: The House Democrats who oppose gay marriage

Eleven House Democrats are on record as opposing gay marriage, even as support within their party for the issue builds.

Another nine haven't taken definitive positions in support of or against gay marriage.

President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a number of Democratic senators have flipped on the issue, and a majority of voters support gay marriage according to polls.

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But the issue remains politically thorny, and even in the relatively liberal House Democratic conference there are pockets of opposition to same-sex marriage.

Nine Democrats who voted in 2011 to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits to gay couples haven't publicly changed their positions: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Gene Green (Texas), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.).

Another two freshmen Democrats voiced opposition to same-sex marriage during their 2012 campaigns: Reps. Bill Enyart (Ill.) and Pete Gallego (Texas).

The nine Democrats who haven’t taken a definitive position on gay marriage are Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Cedric Richmond (La.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), David Scott (Ga.), Terry Sewell (Ala.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Pete Visclosky (Ind.) and freshman Filemon Vela (Texas).

Five of these Democrats hail from districts that voted for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, and they are perennial GOP targets: Barrow, Matheson, McIntyre, Peterson and Rahall. Obama narrowly carried Enyart’s district.

Many other members represent minority-majority districts. Both African-American and Hispanic-American constituencies have historically been more opposed to gay marriage. Yet other members who represent districts with such populations do support gay marriage. 

The Hill contacted all 20 offices this week as the Supreme Court considered two gay marriage cases and several Democratic senators made headlines by announcing their support for gay marriage. 

Matheson, Rahall, and Gallego’s offices said they continue to oppose legalizing gay marriage.

Green said the choice should be left to the individual states but didn’t address DOMA, which he’d voted to uphold, or say whether he personally supported gay marriage.

Richmond told The Hill in a statement that he is “a firm proponent of equal rights” and thinks DOMA is unconstitutional, but didn’t expressly endorse legalizing gay marriage. His office said they had nothing more to offer on the matter when asked if that meant he backed gay marriage or just civil unions.

The rest of the offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Sewell said in 2010 that she supported gay rights but expressed a preference for civil unions over gay marriage. 

Thompson and Scott voted for an amendment to the Constitution that would have banned gay marriage in 2006. They also are among the 29 Democrats who didn’t sign a 2012 "friend of the court" brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA, though both voted against DOMA when it came up for a vote in 2011.

Nine of those 29 Democrats now say they support gay marriage: Reps. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Mel Watt (D-N.C.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas).

“Like many Americans, my views have evolved over time and I believe that committed adults – be them gay or straight – deserve to marry the person they love,” Butterfield told The Hill in a statement this week that represented his first public support for gay marriage.

Hinojosa was in Congress in 2006 but didn’t vote on the amendment, and voted against DOMA in 2011. His office this week said he supported gay marriage, the first time he appears to have publicly done so.

Cooper, who has been married for 28 years, said he and his wife believe people in committed relationships should be able to marry regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Marriage is good,” Cooper said in a statement. “To prevent others who are serious about becoming a legally recognized couple seems like discrimination.”

Watt said he supports gay marriage and there had been “evolution” in his thinking but it didn’t happen recently. He explained that he hasn’t publicized the issue outside of his district.

“People should be able to marry whoever they want to,” he said. “We should treat all citizens alike.”

—Mario Trujillo contributed


DEMOCRATS WHO OPPOSE GAY MARRIAGE:

Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.)

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)

Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.)

Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas)

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas)

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.)

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah)

Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.)

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.)


DEMOCRATS WHO HAVEN’T TAKEN A DEFINITIVE POSITION ON GAY MARRIAGE:

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.)

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas)

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.)

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.)

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.)

Rep. Terry Sewell (D-Ala.)

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.)

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.)

--This report was updated on April 11 at 9:03 p.m.



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