Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski today became the third GOP senator to come out in support of marriage equality, first in an interview with KTUU, the Anchorage NBC affiliate, and then in an op-ed piece at her website, The Pursuit of Happiness ““ Without Government Interference. (emphasis added)

Not too long ago, I had the honor of nominating an Alaskan family as ‘Angels in Adoption,’ a celebration of the selflessness shown by foster care families and those who adopt children. They arrived in Washington, DC, a military family who had opened their doors to not one child but four siblings to make sure that these sisters and brother had the simplest gift you can give a child: a home together. …

I bring them up because the partners were two women who had first made the decision to open their home to provide foster care to the eldest child in 2007. …

Yet despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses. After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room ““ and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner. They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide. This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.

Murkowski writes about the much anticipated decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding California’s Prop 8 and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), which could come tomorrow, though most observers think it will be next week, likely on the last day decisions are announced for this session. Then Murkowski writes this:

I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives ““ while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another. While my support for same sex civil marriage is something I believe in, I am equally committed to guaranteeing that religious freedoms remain inviolate … .

She says that this position is

… is consistent with what I hear from more and more Alaskans especially our younger generations. Like the majority of Alaskans, I supported a constitutional amendment in 1998 defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, but my thinking has evolved as America has witnessed a clear cultural shift. Fifteen years after that vote, I find that when one looks closer at the issue, you quickly realize that same sex unions or civil marriages are consistent with the independent mindset of our state ““ and they deserve a hands-off approach from our federal policies.

I wonder if Sarah Palin heard that about “more and more Alaskans” supporting marriage equality?

Murkowski provides more details about her change of perspective, then concludes with this:

Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way. Countless Alaskans and Americans want to give themselves to one another and create a home together. I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen.

At Think Progress, Igor Volsky writes that

Murkowski joins 53 senators, including Republicans Rob Portman (OH) and Mark Kirk (IL), and all but three Senate Democrats in backing marriage. Forty-six senators still oppose it.

Michael Lavers, at The Washington Blade, provides more background.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk in April publicly endorsed same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) backed the issue during a March interview with CNN’s Dana Bash.

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady and former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr., are among those who also support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

(Sen. Lisa Murkowski via Murkowski