The Edge: One Senate Democrat’s Risky Move on Gay Marriage

National Journal Staff
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One Senate Democrat’s Risky Move on Gay Marriage

Of all the Senate Democrats to support same-sex marriage in recent weeks, Sen. Kay Hagan’s decision is the most politically noteworthy. 

The North Carolina freshman is up for reelection in 2014, faces a socially conservative electorate, and represents a state that resoundingly passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman last year.

Gay marriage is rapidly gaining public support, but the South is a bastion of opposition. Of the nine Senate Democrats yet to support gay marriage, three are from Southern states: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Bill Nelson of Florida. 

Hagan is among the least-defined Democrats facing reelection next year. Many of her vulnerable colleagues, including Landrieu and Pryor, are well-known figures who have proven they can win reelection on tough terrain. Hagan is hoping her decision will rally the Democratic base, but the late timing of her flip-flop makes it likely she’ll rally conservative opposition, too.

—Josh Kraushaar


CHANCES FOR DOMA’S SURVIVAL LOOKING SLIM. A majority of Supreme Court justices appeared ready to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages, during oral arguments today. Justice Anthony Kennedy, usually the Court’s swing vote, said, “The question is whether or not the federal government under a federalism system has the authority to regulate marriage,” and he indicated that he believes DOMA goes further than providing a uniform definition of marriage. Meanwhile, David Boies, one of the lawyers who argued for striking down California’s Proposition 8 on Tuesday, told CBS News that justices seemed “troubled” by their decision to hear that case now “instead of letting it percolate a little bit.” Click here for full audio and transcript of today's proceedings Read more

  • @SCOTUSblog: Final update: #scotus 80% likely to strike down #doma. J Kennedy suggests it violates states’ rights; 4 other Justices see as gay rights.

GINGREY ENTERS GEORGIA SENATE RACE. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., announced his candidacy for Senate today after weeks of rumors that he was preparing to mount a bid. "It's time for Georgians to again send a tested, trusted conservative to the U.S. Senate who will work with Johnny Isakson, and with a sense of urgency, to reward the trust Georgians place in him with action and results, immediately," Gingrey said, according to prepared remarks. Read more

  •   In 2006, Gingrey famously admitted to Stephen Colbert that he’s “a Georgia peach” and allowed the comedian to give him a “Van Dyke.” See the interview here

SEBELIUS CONCEDES PREMIUMS MAY RISE. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that health premiums may rise under the Affordable Care Act, Reuters reports. Though full data on costs will not be available until next year, her warning came just ahead of a Society of Actuaries study that showed that insurers will have to pay 32 percent more for health claims, though the study suggested those who use employer plans will not face much increase. Read more

HUD TAKES NOVEL APPROACH TO SEQUESTER FURLOUGHS. Facing a mountain of paperwork in attempting to work out seven days of furloughs for it employees, the Housing and Urban Development Department has found a more elegant method for coping with sequester-mandated cuts, The Washington Post reports. HUD will be shutting down almost completely for seven days over the course of the next fiscal year: on May 10, May 24, June 14, July, 5, July 22, Aug. 16, and Aug. 30. Read more

EASY CONFIRMATION EXPECTED FOR ENERGY PICK. President Obama’s nominee for Energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, is expected to get some flak from Democrats over his financial connections to an oil and natural-gas group, as well as his stance on nuclear energy. But the MIT professor is widely expected to sail through his April 9 confirmation hearing, Politico reports. Read more

NORTH KOREA SHUTS OFF LAST HOTLINE TO SOUTH. In a sign that the situation on the Korean peninsula is growing more serious, North Korea shut off its military hotlines with the South, The New York Times reported, and in doing so blamed South Korea’s president for continuing to pursue hardline policies. The North had already shut its Red Cross hotlines and a communication line with American Military command. Read more

  • North Korea's official media division has been issuing a stream of images of military exercises, soldiers in training, and, of course, supreme leader Kim Jong Un inspecting and inspiring the troops. (At least one of these images appears to be digitally manipulated). See the slideshow here.

NOT ALL STATES ON BOARD WITH BLOOMBERG’S GUN GROUP FOR MAYORS. Certain groups of people would rather not associate with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: bodega owners who don’t want to hide their cigarettes from view, movie-theater proprietors who like to charge for enormous sodas, and, apparently, all the mayors in Alaska, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming, National Journal’s Ben Terris reports. Read more

  • Among the 2,700 pages of documents released today from the 2011 Tucson shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, one shows assailant Jared Lee Loughner as polite and cooperative in his interview with police, the Associated Press reported.

REPORTS: NBC OFFERED ANDERSON COOPER MATT LAUER’S ‘TODAY’ JOB. Perhaps looking to boost its sagging ratings after losing its 16-year perch at the top of the morning time slot, NBC made overtures to CNN’s Anderson Cooper as a replacement for longtime host Matt Lauer, The New York Times reported. Cooper may have already turned down the offer, the details of which were first reported at The news comes on the heels of a lengthy article in New York magazine that revealed, among other things, that Lauer had been on the cusp of leaving Today last year to start an ABC talk show with former cohost Katie Couric. Read more


Q4 GDP REVISION TO BE RELEASED. The latest revision for fourth quarter gross domestic product will be released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict GDP will expand by roughly 0.6 percent. The first revision showed a mere 0.1 percent expansion, while the original release showed a contraction of 0.1 percent. Read more


"The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That's where the compelling argument is. 'We're Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else.' That's a compelling argument. And to deny that, you have to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn't been able to do anything but thump the Bible." – Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, discussing the Prop. 8 case on his show (BuzzFeed).


WHY AMERICANS ARE THE WEIRDEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. Decades of scholarly research in economics and psychology has assumed “that humans all share the same cognitive machinery—the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring,” Ethan Watters writes in Pacific Standard magazine. But in the summer of 1995, an anthropology graduate student, Joe Henrich, traveled to Peru to conduct tests similar to the famous “prisoner’s dilemma experiment. Working with largely secluded groups that “shared with their kin but rarely traded with outside groups,” Henrich’s results led to two more decades of research that are now changing long-held notions of psychology and economics. And Americans, once thought to be consistent with the rest of the world, now seem the exception to the rule. Read more


SEQUESTRATION COMES TO LATE-NIGHT.Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon noted it’s “spring break” for Congress, and offered a warning to all beachgoers. In the executive branch, Obama hosted a Passover Seder at the White House recently. Late Show’s David Letterman and Conan O’Brien both had words about Obama celebrating the Jewish holiday. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel touched on Obama’s appointment of Julia Pierson as the first woman to lead the Secret Service, giving a history lesson of the agency in the process. Letterman listed the new national monuments Obama had designated Tuesday and looked at FAA cuts from the sequester.  Watch it here


THIRTY-TWO STATES WOULD SUPPORT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN 2016. Perhaps surprisingly, 32 states that would be willing to vote in favor of a same-sex marriage ballot initiative in 2016, according to a model devised by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. Even more surprisingly, 44 states would be willing to do so by 2020, if public support continues its upward trend. Read more


Julia Pierson

  • Why She’s In the News: Appointed as the first female director of the Secret Service on Tuesday
  • Born:  1959; Orlando, Fla.
  • Education: B.A. in criminal justice from University of Central Florida, 1981 (AP)

Career Highlights

  • Chief of staff in the office of the director of the U.S. Secret Service, 2008-13
  • Secret Service special agent in Miami office, 1983-85
  • Orlando police officer, 1980-83

Of interest

  • First female director of the Secret Service; only 10 percent of the agency’s special agents are female (NYT)
  • She first came into contact with the Secret Service through her involvement with a coed initiative of the Boy Scouts (Smithsonian)
  • She was on presidential protection detail on Sept. 11, 2001

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