On Wednesday, hours after being endorsed by LGBT-rights group the Human Rights Campaign, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced that she supports the right of same-sex couples to marry — as long as a state has decided that it's all right. In the fall, Collins is facing Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, a former ACLU Maine executive director who was instrumental in Maine's successful 2012 referendum to legalize gay marriage.
"A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision," Collins said in a statement, in response to media inquiries. "Nearly 44 percent of Americans live in a state where same-sex couples can be legally married, and I believe this number will only continue to grow."
Collins is only the fourth Republican in the Senate to endorse same-sex marriage, after Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). So in that sense, it's a big deal, ensuring that there will be a solid Senate majority in favor of gay marriage no matter which party controls the upper chamber next year.
But unlike with, say, Portman, her endorsement can't be much of a surprise to anyone. Sure, the Maine GOP still officially calls for one man–one woman matrimony, but Collins has twice voted against a constitutional amendment trying to enshrine that position, she helped pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate, and in 2010, Collins and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sponsored the bill that ended the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay service members.