Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday announced via his website that he would support same-sex marriage – the second Senate Republican to do so. From Kirk’s statement:
When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others. Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back– government has no place in the middle.
Kirk’s endorsement comes at a critical time in both the national debate as well as in Illinois. While the Illinois Senate passed a measure supporting same sex marriage on Valentine’s Day, the Illinois House went on spring break before calling it for a vote.
Last week, sources told the Sun-Times that several state House Republicans were poised to support the measure, hoping in part, not to make the issue define the state Republican party. A blow-up over the issue happened earlier this year when state Sen. Jim Oberweis attempted to oust the state party chairman, Pat Brady, since he backed gay marriage.
Kirk, a moderate Republican, came to Brady’s defense, as did other GOP stalwarts.
In his Senate campaign against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, however, Kirk opposed gay marriage. At a debate Oct. 19, 2010, Kirk said: “I — I oppose gay marriage, and — I support civil unions. But I also don’t think we should have a federal takeover of all marriage law in the United States. I think the federal government is already trying to take over too much.” Full transcript of the Senate debate.
Kirk previously voted to end the policy barring gays from openly serving in the military, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He’s a lead co-sponsor of a bill to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and has opposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Kirk is Illinois’ ranking Republican lawmaker.
Natasha Korecki, AP contributing