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Originally published Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 4:01 PM

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U.S. Sen. Patty Murray's admirable change of heart on gay marriage

Some will see U.S. Sen. Patty Murray's flip-flop on gay marriage as weakness. Actually, it's a sign of strength, an ability to reconsider one's position in light of new information and changing attitudes.

POLITICIANS usually do not like to admit they made a mistake or changed their mind on an issue as high profile as gay rights.

For that reason, an "atta girl" is due U.S. Sen. Patty Murray who has done an about-face on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. The net effect of that and a similar Washington law is that same-sex couples are denied certain federal protections and benefits.

In 1996, Murray supported DOMA, and some think that had something to do with her upcoming election in 1998 when she may have feared facing a conservative candidate.

Now Murray is co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the 1996 law, putting her name on "The Respect for Marriage Act of 2011." If approved, the bill would make federal law and benefits apply to all valid marriages. The legislation does not require any state to recognize a marriage conducted in another state, nor does it compel any person, religious group, state or locality to marry two individuals of the same sex.

Murray's position change may rile those who do not agree with her, but her support for a repeal of DOMA reflects changing American attitudes and values. The prime sponsor of the 2011 law is Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California.

"I am proud to stand with Senator Feinstein and others as we fight to end this 14-year-old policy and make sure all married couples are treated equally in the eyes of the federal government," said Murray.

Some will call Murray fickle but attitudes change and senators should be willing to think and rethink important issues.

Public support for same-sex marriage has grown in recent years. Younger people in particular are not offended by marriage between two individuals of the same sex.

While it may be uncomfortable for a politician to change a position dramatically, voters should be more wary of those who do not keep an open mind on complicated subjects. Murray is taking a stand for fairness and equality.

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