Illinois Republican backs same-sex marriage

| Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

CHICAGO — GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois on Tuesday became the second sitting Republican senator to endorse gay marriage — a move that could shift the political debate over legalizing gay marriage in Kirk's home state.

Kirk, who has opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, said in a post on his blog that “same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage.”

“Our time on this Earth is limited; I know that better than most,” said Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January 2012. “Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back — government has no place in the middle.”

Kirk went through months of rehabilitation before returning to work in Washington in January. He said in his blog post that he promised himself he would return “with an open mind and greater respect for others.”

Kirk is Illinois' ranking Republican lawmaker. His announcement brings to 50 the number of senators — the vast majority of them Democrats — who are on record in support of gay marriage, according to Freedom to Marry, a group that supports gay marriage.

It occurs a week after the Supreme Court held two days of oral arguments on the subject, and as the Illinois Legislature is giving final consideration to a measure that would make Illinois the 10th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage.

The Illinois Senate voted in February to lift a state ban on same-sex marriage. The legislation was approved by a House committee, but has yet to be called for a floor vote. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan said recently he believes supporters are a dozen votes short of what they need for the bill to pass.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said he would sign the measure.

Kirk's announcement could give political cover to Republicans in the Illinois House who are considering a yes vote but are fearful of a backlash — or a primary challenge — from social conservatives.

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