Divorce used to be a career-killer for politicians.
Nelson Rockefeller never got the Republican nomination for president because he dumped his first wife. It’s not like that anymore, but ex-wives -- those can still be a factor.
And so it turns out that Alexi Giannoulias isn't the only one hassling Kirk about his support of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Kirk’s ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, is after him about it, too. Kirk and Vertolli divorced last year, but remain friends. According to the LGBT website The Bilerico Project, Vertolli -- a former Navy lieutenant -- recently joined the Human Right Campaign in lobbying for a repeal of the policy that has led to the discharge of over 10,000 gay and lesbian service members. Along with fellow activist Phil Reese, she visited her ex-husband’s Washington office.
Vertolli told Reese, “it’s ironic -- some Americans who volunteer to serve their country and put their lives at risk can also be humiliated and drummed out subjectively. That’s not the way I want my government to treat the men and women volunteering to protect my security. Gay men and women have been serving honorably in our military since its inception. They served with me and they’re serving with Mark. DADT gives homophobes a dangerous hunting license...to kill people who would take a bullet to protect you, me -- all Americans.”
Kirk has one of the strongest pro-gay records of any Republican in Congress, but his service in the Naval Reserve is much more important to his political identity.
As one of the few members of Congress serving in the military, Kirk has been deployed to Afghanistan twice in the last two years. He’s not going to compromise his support for military policy. This gives Giannoulias an opportunity to outflank Kirk on gay rights, and he’s taken it. On Monday, Giannoulias met with LGBT leaders to announce that he’s joining a petition drive to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“I look at the issue of LGBT equality as one of basic fairness,” Giannoulias said at a press conference for gay media at Center on Halsted. “I was raised to believe that all people are equal, and that we should judge one another by our actions and ideas – not by our race, our religion or our sexual orientation."
Kirk’s spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowski, reiterated his support for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
"Congressman Kirk is proud to serve our country in uniform,” Kukowski told Politico. “He supports and abides by the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.”
If Kirk’s ex-wife can’t change his mind, no one can. Take that opening while you ca, Alexi.