BILOXI, MS (WLOX/AP) - Former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove is coming out publicly saying he's had a change of heart about gay and lesbian couples adopting children. He now says he regrets signing legislation making it illegal for those couples to become adoptive parents in Mississippi.
In a blog published by The Huffington Post this week, Musgrove wrote about that bill from 2000 saying, "I believed at the time this was a principled position based on my faith. But I no longer believe it was right."
"There are far too many children in America in need of a loving home, who are shuttled between temporary homes and group shelters that fail to provide the stable, nurturing environment all children deserve. If you are fortunate in life, age and knowledge breed compassion. And as I have gotten older, I came to understand, that a person's sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be a good parent."
Musgrove went on to offer support for gay marriage saying, "We cannot continue to blindly disqualify people from becoming parents -- just as we should not deny an entire group of people the basic civil right of marriage -- simply because many of us fear what we do not understand."
Musgrove said he was inspired to write about his change of heart after reading about Sen. Rob Portman's evolution on marriage equality. The Ohio GOP congressman made headlines last week when he said he now supports gay marriage, a reversal that began when he learned one of his sons is gay.
Portman and Musgrove aren't alone. A recent national survey shows that Americans are becoming more accepting of gay marriage in large part because of a shift in attitudes among those who know someone who is gay.
Overall, the Pew Research Center poll finds 49% of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and 44% opposed to the idea. That's more people now favoring gay marriage than opposing it. A decade ago 58% opposed it and a third supported it.
The 49% who now support same-sex marriage includes 14% who said they have changed their minds.
When asked why, almost one-third say it's because they know someone who is gay - a family member, friend or acquaintance. A quarter said their personal views have changed as they thought more about the issue or just because they've grown older and more accepting.
Former Governor Musgrove can be counted among those whose outlook has evolved over the years.
"What is sad to me is that my understanding of this issue did not come until after I had left office and no longer had the power to right this wrong. This reality weighs heavily on me to this day."
No matter the regret, Musgrove is realistic that a veto of the bill in 2000 likely wouldn't have made much difference. He points out in the article that the Legislature had more than enough votes to override a veto.
"Nonetheless, this decision that all of us made together has made it harder for an untold number of children to grow up in happy, healthy homes in Mississippi--and that breaks my heart."