Politics

April 2, 2013

2nd Republican senator announces support for gay marriage

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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In this Dec. 18, 2012 file photo, Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois speaks about his recovery from a major stroke a year ago at his home in Highland Park, Ill. In a post on his blog Tuesday, April 2, 2013, Kirk said that he supports same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Daily Herald, Bill Zars)

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Gay marriage supporters applaud Kirk's stance

CHICAGO — Gay rights advocates say Sen. Mark Kirk's announcement that he supports gay marriage is "a sign of progress."

Kirk posted a statement on his blog Tuesday saying same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. He says what matters in life is who you love and "government has no place in the middle."

He is the second Republican in the U.S. Senate to back same-sex marriage.

Rick Garcia is director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project. He says momentum is growing for marriage equality, especially among Republicans.

Opponents like Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute disagree. Higgins says Kirk and other Republicans who back gay marriage are contributing to the destruction of marriage and diminished religious liberty.

That makes it a political balancing act for Republicans trying to project a more caring and inclusive message without alienating social conservatives who strongly oppose gay marriage and represent some of the GOP's most passionate voters.

Laurie Higgins, a cultural analyst with the Illinois Family Institute, which opposes gay marriage, said Tuesday that she wasn't surprised by Kirk's position because "we've known for a long time he is not a conservative."

Higgins said Portman's announcement made it easier politically for Kirk to express his support, and she called the timing — the week before the Illinois House returns to the state Capitol following a mid-session break — "suspicious."

"It's much more convenient and comfortable than if he had said this two years ago," Higgins said.

Kirk served five terms in Congress representing Chicago's northern suburbs before he won the 2010 race for President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

He previously voted to end the policy barring gays from openly serving in the military, known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and is a lead co-sponsor of a bill to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He also supported Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady after Brady announced his support for same-sex marriage earlier this year, drawing the ire of his party's social conservative wing. When some members of the state central committee attempted to oust Brady, Kirk said Brady had his full support.

"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, Illinois' largest gay rights advocacy organization. "The momentum is stunning and we welcome it."

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