JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill says she now believes that gay couples should be allowed to marry, a change from her previously nuanced stance during last year's re-election campaign in which she defended the right of Missouri voters to outlaw same-sex weddings.
The Democratic senator's support for gay marriage is a matter of both personal belief and public policy, her spokesman said Monday. McCaskill declared her position on her blog Sunday evening in advance of U.S. Supreme Court arguments on the topic later this week.
"I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love," McCaskill said on her Tumblr site. "While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry."
The court is to hear a challenge Tuesday to California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, then arguments Wednesday concerning a part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act that bars same-sex couples who are legally married from receiving federal tax, pension and other benefits available to other married people.
Missouri voters overwhelmingly adopted a constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman. During her unsuccessful campaign for governor that year, McCaskill said she opposed gay marriage but also opposed the constitutional amendment, because Missouri already had a similar state law.
"I just didn't think it was an appropriate thing to put in our constitution," McCaskill said during an October 2004 gubernatorial debate.
McCaskill has generally shied away from discussing gay marriage during her Senate campaigns. But she defended Missouri's right to ban gay marriage when asked last June about a federal appeals court decision striking down certain parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
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