SC Senator who led anti-marriage charge says he supports the freedom to marry

This week, John Hawkins, a Republican who served in the South Carolina General Assembly from 1996 to 2008 and spent the last eight years of his term as a Senator, spoke out about the freedom to marry. At an event hosted by the Alliance for Full Acceptance, he tracked his evolution on his views about marriage, explaining in detail that he worked hard to pass South Carolina's 2006 constitutional amendment restricting marriage to different-sex couples. He explained in his speech how he now regrets that push, how he has come to support the freedom to marry for all families, and how he wants all families in the state now to be able to share in the joys and protections of the freedom to marry.

Watch his full speech below, and read excerpts here:

As a Senator representing a conservative area of South Carolina, I led the charge to pass the so-called South Carolina Marriage Amendment. This legislation would amend the constitution to specifically state that marriage would be defined as a union between one man and one woman. To my regret, I was on the other side of that fight. With the zeal and the aggressiveness of someone convinced of the rightness of their position, I worked hard to get the marriage amendment passed. I became the public face of the push for the marriage amendment. I was very vocal and outspoken in support of the measure. 

In preparing my remarks for today, I have reflected on my state of mind and what drove me to be so active on this issue at the time. That's somewhat difficult to do 8 years later, and like all people, my motives were not single-faceted, but nuanced and complex. 

The reason I was asked to come here was because of a Facebook post I wrote on June 26 of this year. I was commenting on the Supreme Court decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, which held that the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defined marriage between a man and a woman federally, was unconstitutional. At the time I wrote the post, I honestly didn't think anyone would care. I wrote it because I was sorry that I had fought against marriage equality. I wrote it because I wanted my two girls to have something in writing from their dad on the public domain that I was wrong on the issue and was stating so publicly. I wanted them to see - and anyone else who cared - that I was repudiating my earlier standing and openly 'coming out,' as it were, for marriage equality. 

Here's what I wrote at the time: 'In my past days as a state senator, I was active in working for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. With time and much consideration - not to mention a dose of enlightenment and empathy - I realized my past positions in this regard were wrong, and I honestly wish I hadn't been so strident against gay marriage. I have come to see discrimination against gay people as a great wrong, akin to discrimination against blacks, women, and other minorities. I believe that if a gay couple desires to get married, they should have the same rights as me. One cannot undo the past, but there is time left in life to change one's mind and reject discrimination of any kind in any form, against anyone.' That's what I wrote in June.

Former Senator Hawkins - like millions of Americans from across the United States - have come to understand the importance of the freedom to marry because they have taken the time to reflect on why marriage matters and come to the conclusion that extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples strengthens families and improves communities. It is important to embrace and celebrate these journeys, which often allow even more Americans to challenge their own perspectives and begin to complete their own journeys.