ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Like many people across the country, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says her opinion of gay marriage is evolving.
"When you see the shift in this country about the views toward gay marriage, I think 'evolving' is probably an operative word here," the Alaska Republican said Thursday in Anchorage after speaking at a state-sponsored Choose Respect rally denouncing domestic violence.
She says the views of her sons, ages 20 and 21, and their contemporaries have helped her see things differently, whether it's gay marriage, gun control, immigration or any other issue.
"When it comes to gay marriage, the universal response from young people seems to be, why are you all so worried about this? Why is this such an issue?" she said, calling support for gay marriage partially a generational issue.
"For them, they have grown up in a time - they have friends that have gay parents - they view it entirely differently," Murkowski said.
Murkowski's is now looking at whether society is doing "all that we can to support strong and stable marriages of any kind."
Statistics show strong, stable families are best for children, she said.
"I read something yesterday that I found very compelling," she said. "It's not the gender of the parent that should be first and foremost, but what is in the heart of that parent."
"I recognize that things have changed," Murkowski said. "As things change, perhaps our laws need to change, as well."
Murkowski's softening stance on gay marriage, first reported by the Chugiak-Eagle River Star, comes the same week as Alaska's junior senator, Democrat Mark Begich, announced his support. Begich is among seven senators to back gay marriage in the past month.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, a Republican and Alaska's sole House member, said Thursday after a Choose Respect rally in Juneau that his stance has not changed.
"I've always been, marriage is between a man and a woman. That's my position. I will continue to have that position. I think it demeans the term marriage. I may be accused of not going along with the popular movement but that's the way I am," Young told reporters.
Alaska in 1998 was one of the first states to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. But Murkowski said of the now 15-year-old amendment, "My view of the world is that nothing out there is static."
Murkowski said she's not worried how others - especially in the Republican party - might perceive her position, saying she would hope others would respect her views as she does theirs.
"If I think something is wrong and needs to be righted, perhaps the time to right it is now," she said.