Saturday April 6, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Former Sen. Olympia Snowe, who as a senator voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, announced Friday that she now supports gay marriage.

The Republican known for moderate social views said she voted for a referendum that legalized gay marriage in Maine, saying views on the issue are evolving based largely on initiatives at the state level.

"Though there remain strongly held views on both sides of the issue, we’ve seen a significant change in society’s attitude on this matter, and so it is only natural for our representative government to be responsive to those changes. That is why I supported the referendum in Maine last November permitting marriage between same-sex couples," she told The Associated Press in a statement.

Snowe first announced her view on gay marriage in a wide-ranging CNN interview. As for the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal marriage benefits for gay couples, Snowe said that matter is now in the U.S. Supreme Court’s hands and the court’s decision will determine Congress’ next step.

Snowe’s successor, independent Sen. Angus King, also supports gay marriage.

Maine’s other senator, Republican Susan Collins, calls herself "a champion" on equal rights for gays and lesbians but doesn’t openly support gay marriage.

Collins has twice voted against amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage by pre-empting state laws. Her spokesman didn’t immediately respond Friday to a request of how she voted on the November gay marriage referendum in Maine.