U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill

— For the first time in her 30 year political career, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has announced her support for same sex marriage rights.

In a statement on her Tumblr blog, McCaskill said her position was influenced by gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff engaged in long-term relationships, as well as her children, who she said “have a hard time [understanding] why this is even controversial.”

“I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love,” McCaskill wrote in her blog post. “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.”

McCaskill’s announcement comes nearly a year after President Barack Obama made a similar announcement in support of the policy.

Sources close to McCaskill said at the time, she honestly wanted to announce her support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians, but that the political reality in Missouri was such that taking a position then could have risen a challenging road-block to her candidacy. The LGBT community was mindful of this and was willing to lay off the short-term pressure for the long-term gain of having a Democratic U.S. Senator.

Then, a spokesman for McCaskill said she believed the issue should be handled by state governments. In 2004, when McCaskill was running for governor, she said she opposed a constitutional amendment on the ballot banning same sex marriage, but agreed that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman.

A recent poll by the Washington Post found that 58 percent of Americans support same sex marriage rights, and that number rises to nearly 81 percent among young Americans. McCaskill’s announcement came as political leaders throughout Washington continue to grapple with the issue, while the public’s support is generally tipping in same sex marriage’s favor. Last week, McCaskill told POLITICO her position was that she was “thinking” about it.