Ex-lawmaker says he now supports marriage equality

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) A former state lawmaker who led the charge against gay marriage seven years ago today says it was a mistake.

      In 2006, then-Republican Sen. John Hawkins, from the Upstate, fought to amend the state constitution to specifically define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. The measure passed overwhelmingly in both the state house and the senate.

      "I honestly wish I hadn't been so strident against gay marriage," Hawkins told members with the Alliance for Full Acceptance.

      Once considered the primary political nemesis for the gay community, Hawkins is now considered one of their biggest allies.

      "I had taken such a strong position for the marriage amendment seven, eight years ago, that I'm happy to come here and share that I don't believe that anymore," Hawkins said.

      The former lawmaker says his view on this issue changed several years ago.

      "I have two children, two girls, and I want them to grow up knowing that their daddy, even though he stood up against this right at one point in his life, that he tried to do something about it, that he tried to basically make amends and make it right," said Hawkins.

      After Hawkins' marriage amendment bill passed in the General Assembly, it was put to a public vote -- which passed overwhelmingly.

      "I think discrimination of any kind is wrong," said Hawkins.

      The organization's executive director, Warren Redman-Gress, says Hawkins' decision to come forward is a small step in the right direction.

      "South Carolina has a long way to go before we legalize same gender marriage as a state," said Redman-Gress. "Marriage is not a religious issue. It's a civil issue. It is the government that grants marriage licenses -- not churches."

      Hawkins also weighed in on the biblical stance of homosexuality.

      "The biblical verses against homosexuality, I hope one day will go the same way as the biblical verses that condone slavery or genocide," said Hawkins.

      Hawkins says that he hopes one day that the entire country will look back on discrimination against gays the way most people view racism today.