At a private risotto dinner last night with gay leaders and elected officials at Gramercy Tavern last night, Sen. Chuck Schumer reversed himself on the issue of same-sex marriage, saying he not only now supports it but also backs a full reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Schumer’s office confirmed the meeting and also the senior senator’s change of heart, issuing the following statement from the Brooklyn Democrat (who is traveling upstate today): “It’s time. Equality is something that has always been a hallmark of America and no group should be deprived of it. New York, which has always been at the forefront on issues of equality, is appropriately poised to take a lead on this issue.”

Ben Smith, reporting on Schumer’s announcement, noted, “It’s a big deal because it represents support for same-sex marriage moving toward becoming the default, mainstream position of the Democratic Party. Schumer’s a New York senator, but he’s also always been extremely careful to protect his right flank on issues like crime and gay rights.”

It’s true, Schumer has been quite cognizant of conservative culture-war attacks. He has long said that marriage “should be between a man and a woman” and joined the majority in voting for the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s what makes his latest pronouncement so encouraging.

As for whether this position is “moving toward becoming the default, mainstream position of the Democratic Party,” I’d like to think that’s true, but I suspect we’re still a few years from seeing this become a reality. I haven’t seen a list of Democratic senators and/or governors who are on record supporting gay marriage — if anyone has such a list, let me know — but I suspect it’s still fairly short.

That said, here’s hoping Schumer’s announcement is a sign of things to come.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.