Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back kirk.senate.gov/?p=blog&id=686— Mark Kirk (@SenatorKirk) April 2, 2013
WASHINGTON--In a reversal, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) announced on Tuesday that he backs gay marriage saying in a statement released on his Senate web site Tuesday surviving his stroke opened his mind to have "greater respect for others."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is also a supporter of gay marriage. Also on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced his backing of gay marriage. Illinois and Delaware legislatures currently have pending measures to legalize gay marriage.
Kirk opposed gay marriage when he was running for the Illinois Senate seat in 2009--when it could have been an issue in the 2010 GOP primary when he was worried about a challenge from the right.
Back in September, 2009, after Democratic Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias came out in support of same-sex marriage--and repeal of the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman--known as the Defense of Marriage Act--Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown asked about Kirk's position.
Wrote Brown, "Informed of Giannoulias' comments, a spokesman for Kirk offered a succinct response: "Congressman Kirk opposes gay marriage, supports the Defense of Marriage Act, and agrees with President Clinton's policy of "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
Once Kirk was the nominee--running against Giannoulias--he was still against gay marriage, saying in an Oct. 19, 2010 debate, "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." (My post with the debate transcript is HERE)
Kirk, in his Tuesday statement said, "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 said.
Kirk defended Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady when his chairmanship was threatened recently because of his personal support for same sex marriage.
"Senator Kirk and Senator Carper have shown tremendous leadership in announcing their support for marriage equality," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement. The group is a major national lobbying organization for gay rights
"It is a sign of our progress that so many of their colleagues are showing the same political will. Democrat or Republican, there can simply be no excuse for standing on the wrong side of history when it comes to this basic question of justice," Griffin said.
"We continue to see the momentum behind marriage equality grow, especially among Republicans." said Rick Garcia, Director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and Policy Director for The Civil Rights Agenda in a statement. The group is the largest Illinois Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender civil rights advocacy organization.
"The momentum is stunning and we welcome it," Garcia said.
With the Senate out of session, Kirk is in Chicago this week.