hagan-SSMNorth Carolina Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan came out today in favor of same-sex marriage. She joins other high-profile Democrats, like President Obama and Hillary Clinton, who for years were against same-sex marriage but then made an abrupt switch:

Sen. Kay Hagan said Wednesday that she supported the right of gay people to marry, saying “we should not tell people who they can love or who they can marry.”

Hagan, one of the few Democratic senators who had not previously come out in support of gay marriage, announced her support as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on a U.S. law that denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples.

“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. “But after much thought and prayer on my part this is where I am today.”

So, what’s up? Why are leading Democrats, after years of professing to be in favor of same-sex civil unions but not actual marriage, being so up-front about it now? Allahpundit, at HotAir.com, wonders the same about Hagan, and adds some suppositions:

Maybe she figures she’s probably going to lose anyway, in which case she might as well roll the dice. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, this’ll be the ultimate test case of how much of a political liability SSM continues to be. If she can get reelected as a first-term Democratic incumbent in a conservative southern state just two years after it banned gay marriage, then this is effectively a non-issue.

I guess we’ll see.