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October 10, 2015

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Sen. Harry Reid indicates support for gay marriage if it reaches Nevada ballot


AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nev., right, accompanied by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 25, 2011, as they announce a new proposal to solve the debt limit crisis.

Even as President Barack Obama’s shift on gay marriage opens up a new round of debate about federal laws, Sen. Harry Reid has remained adamant in his view that decisions about who should and should not be allowed to marry should be left to the states.

But on Thursday, Reid quietly said that if he were called on to vote one way or another in his home state of Nevada, he would “follow [his] children and grandchildren” and support legalizing gay marriage in Nevada.

Reid communicated his position without words: He nodded affirmatively in response to a reporter questioning whether he would support a vote in Nevada to recognize homosexual marriages.

The statement expressed by that nod is a significant one for the Senate majority leader, who has often said that he doesn’t object to gay couples marrying or think it’s any of his business whether or not gay couples choose to marry, but has never proactively said he would support their right to do so at the state level if asked to decide.

Reid still personally believes that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman, a point he reiterated in a statement Wednesday in which he also said he recognized his children and grandchildren took the right of gays to marry as a given. He did not indicate that he would follow their lead and vote to legalize gay marriage, however, until asked Thursday.

Reid didn’t go quite so far when asked about his plans for a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which received the support of the Judiciary committee in November. Reid voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that defines a marriage as being between a man and a woman for federal purposes but allows states to deviate from that standard, in 1996. He has since voted against efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a heterosexual union only; such an amendment would trample the rights of states to define their marriage laws for themselves.

When asked about the Defense of Marriage Law repeal Thursday, Reid called it “an important piece of legislation” but did not commit to bringing it to a vote on the floor, citing sure Republican opposition.

“It’s not a Democratic problem, it’s a Republican problem,” Reid said.

The Republican party opposes legalizing gay marriage, and its members would be likely to filibuster any attempt to repeal the federal law that exists defining marriage as a male-female affair. Strikingly though, most Republicans have avoided commenting on the issue since the president expressed his views yesterday: Thursday morning, House Speaker John Boehner rather bluntly avoided questions about gay marriage by saying he would “stay focused on jobs.”

The Democratic party hasn’t taken an official position on the legality of gay marriage. But now that Obama has said he is in favor of gay marriage, Reid said he thinks the party will follow suit and add legalizing homosexual marriages to its platform.

“If the president is in favor of it, I’m sure it will be,” Reid said.

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