Yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Susan Collins (R-ME) over challenger Shenna Bellows, the former ACLU of ME executive director who helped bring marriage equality to Maine. Hours later, Collins finally broke her silence on the subject:
After receiving the endorsement of the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Wednesday indicated for the first time her personal support for same-sex marriage.The timing of Collin's announcement can't be coincidental.
“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 response to a question from the BDN.
But let's review a few opportunities on which Collins took a pass.
When Shenna Bellows was organizing "Republicans for Marriage Equality" in 2012 as part of her leadership role in Maine's marriage referendum, she invited Susan Collins to join. Collins refused.
When Maine voters affirmed the right to marry for LGBTQ Mainers, supporters across the country celebrated. Collins could have taken the opportunity to make the statement she made today, nearly two years later. She stayed silent.
And when the Maine GOP held its 2014 convention a few weeks ago, voting once more to define marriage as "the union of one man and one woman," Collins could have shown leadership within her own party in her own state by voicing a more inclusive position. She did not.
Bellows responded to the statement from Collins:
“I believe in taking strong stances in favor of Constitutional protections and equal rights even when they’re unpopular,” Bellows said. “Remaining silent on some of the biggest civil rights issues of our generation, even after the voters have spoken, isn’t leadership, and it isn’t how Maine became one of the most inclusive states in the country for LGBT rights”Why did Collins wait so long to make this statement?
As I commented on Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees's diary about the HRC endorsement yesterday,
Earlier in this race one Maine reporter coined the phrase "the Shenna effect" to wonder about Collins' shifting of positions on minimum wage and NSA transparency. Though as with those issues, this movement on marriage equality is a half-measure. But it's a measure of the critical role Bellows is playing, even as an underdog.
I'll let Shenna Bellows have the last word:
"My opponent, Republican Susan Collins, had the chance to speak up in favor of marriage equality in 2012 or any time in the previous decade. Two years after her constituents made their feelings known at the ballot box, she has refused to break her silence. I believe Mainers need, want and deserve more proactive representation on equal rights -- on allowing LGBT students to learn without fear of bullying, on applying for jobs and going to work without fear of discrimination, and on much more. I'm running for Senate to provide that proactive representation and to expand Constitutional protections for our LGBT community."You can support real leadership on LGBT issues by donating to Shenna's campaign at this Act Blue page.