Gay Rights and Same Sex Marriage: Chuck Robb Was Early Senate Advocate

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"I became increasingly convinced that many, many people simply didn't understand it," Robb said.

In his speech on the Senate floor in 1996 he said he was "trying to educate some of my Senate colleagues who I thought were still persuadable on the merits."

"I tried to talk in terms they would relate to and understand this was a speech that could make a difference," Robb said. "In these cases when I made a speech like that or a speech on guns…it really made me feel like I made a difference, they energized me. I also knew at the time I was on the right side of history and ultimately more people would come to realize they were wrong, and political fortunes would be altered because they took a courageous stand."

Robb even said that before he went out to try to convince some of his colleagues not to vote for DOMA, California Sen. Barbara Boxer told him, "Chuck, don't do that! This will kill you in Virginia, this will kill you in Virginia."

For Boxer, it was less politically risky, as a Californian, to be against DOMA, but according to Robb, it didn't stop her from trying to watch out for his political interests.

"I told her this was important to me," Robb said. "I came off the floor thinking, You really made a difference. I got some sense of meaning from being here today rather than all the other kinds of speeches and amendments that both sides tired to create… The most satisfaction I got during my tenure in the Senate is taking on cases that were intensely unpopular, but believing I was right."

Robb says the issue is "very generational."

After two terms in the Senate, Robb was defeated in a close race in 2000 by Republican George Allen.

This story has been updated.

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