What do Tom Carper, Bob Casey, Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester have in common? The Democratic senators from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Montana, respectively, each announced support for gay marriage months after winning re-election, in 2012.
Few lawmakers from competitive states have been willing to make such pronouncements before Election Day. Except for Sen. Kay Hagan.
The first-term Democratic senator from North Carolina came out for gay marriage in late March. As she geared up for a potentially bruising reelection bid in a state that banned gay marriage in a voter referendum just last year.
In other words, she's got electoral skin in the game. Agree or not with her views on the issue, Hagan is the politically-gutsiest lawmaker to back same-sex marriage.
"I know there are strong feelings on both sides, and I have a great deal of respect for their opinions," Hagan said in an interview with the Raleigh, N.C., newspaper News & Observer. "But after much thought and prayer on my part this is where I am today."
In the interview, Hagan declined to predict how the news may affect her reelection in the mostly conservative state.
In a follow-up statement on Facebook, she added, "This wasn't a decision I came to overnight, like my Republican colleague Rob Portman expressed recently on his own viewpoint." Portman (R-Ohio) announced in mid-March that he had reversed his own position and now supported gay marriage, citing his son's decision two years earlier to come out to him.
Voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment last year that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The following day, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to declare his support for gay marriage.
Several of Hagan's Democratic Senate colleagues didn't make their views known until safely re-elected. The issue came up to varying degrees on the campaign trail last year. McCaskill won a famously hard-edged reelection bid in 2012, against then-Rep. Todd Akin, of "legitimate rape" infamy. And in Pennsylvania, despite some last-minute scares Casey basically cruised to a second term. He was helped in so small part by President Barack Obama's campaign turnout in the Keystone State.
In Montana, Tester staved off a challenge from a Republican congressman while mostly staying mum on social issues. Carper, who announced his support for gay marriage on Tuesday, skated to reelection in 2012 in deep blue Delaware.
North Carolina is a famously politically schizophrenic state. Its senatorial delegation over the decades has ranged ideologically from Republican Jesse Helms, a conservative icon, to pre-scandal populist Democrat John Edwards. And North Carolina went for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race before reverting back to its Republican ways four years later.
It turns out Hagan's pro-gay marriage stance may not even be particularly bad politics in the Tar heel State, at least when it comes to fundraising. After declaring her support she received a fundraising boost from the group LGBT Democrats of North Carolina.
The only other Democratic senator in a comparable position to Hagan is Mark Warner, in neighboring Virginia. He's up for reelection in 2014, and announced his backing of same-sex marriage. But Warner, a former governor, is a popular figure in his state and is unlikely to face much of a challenge next year.
To the West, Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) recently announced his support for gay marriage. But Rockefeller's retiring next from representing the culturally conservative state in the Senate for 30 years, rather than facing reelection.