Mark Begich at the Iditarod

On the eve of the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing of California Proposition Eight’s legality, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich has finally come out fully in support of equal rights for gay couples:

Gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to pledge their love and commitment through the civil institution of marriage. I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to receive a government-issued marriage license, while religious institutions retain their right to determine which marriages they will perform.

Begich went on to say, “Government should keep out of individuals’ personal lives—if someone wants to marry someone they love, they should be able to. Alaskans are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives, our daily business, and in the way we manage our resources and economy.”

Earlier Begich had been far more vague in his support.  He faces a tough reelection battle in 2014 against opposition surely to be led by the same conservative Christians who inflicted Sarah Palin and Joe Miller onto the national psyche.  Representative of these types, are some of the comments coming in at The Hill‘s article on Begich’s announcement:

This is Begichs last term !!! 

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How can politicians continue to “evolve” on the issue of gay marriage when it stands as such an obvious contradiction to evolution? 

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Looks like another Republican pickup in 2014, Alaska is one of the redest [sic] states in the nation, they elected Sarah Palin after all…

However, those of us who have long followed Begich’s hirings as mayor of Anchorage and in the U.S. Senate, and know his staff, understand Mark has always been very welcoming and inclusive.  Among his most staunch supporters among staffers and former employees have been several openly gay men and women, some of whom are my friends.  I remember back during the Democratic Primary of 2008, when I was supporting his opponent, Ray Metcalfe, getting several calls from gay friends (and other friends) who urged me to look more deeply into Mark’s record and qualifications.

Begich’s endorsement wasn’t the only recent one from a previously less committed Democrat, but Business Insider noted it as “perhaps the most significant,” because of Begich’s upcoming reelection campaign.

With national-level GOP strategists claiming their party needs to be more inclusive, the GOP reaction to Begich’s statement and further actions might give us some idea of how the party might choose to enforce their drive to move from the 19th to the 21st century.

image from Sen. Mark Begich – at the start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race