"Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage," Illinois' junior senator wrote on his website Tuesday.
Sen. Mark Kirk today became the second Republican senator to endorse same-sex marriage.
It appears his brush with death -- when he suffered a debilitating stroke in January 2012 -- served as the final push. On Tuesday Kirk issued this statement from his Senate office:
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 follows Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, as a same-sex marriage supporter in his caucus. Portman changed his position after his son came out as gay.
The junior senator from Illinois has long had a liberal mindset on gay rights. As a congressman, he voted against a constitutional amendment to make marriage between one man and one woman, and was one of the few Republicans endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay lobbying group. As a senator, he voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Kirk’s announcement is especially significant because he is the 50th senator to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
With the vote of Vice President Joe Biden, that position now has a majority in the chamber.