Illinois Senator Mark Kirk announced his support for marriage equality in a brief statement Tuesday. Kirk is only the second sitting Republican senator to endorse gay marriage.
“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,” Kirk said in a statement posted on his website. “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’s support for gay marriage comes on the same day that Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware announced his support for marriage equality on his Facebook page:
“As our society has changed and evolved, so too has the public’s opinion on gay marriage – and so has mine. I pray every day for God to grant me the wisdom to do what is right. Through my prayers and conversations with my family and countless friends and Delawareans, I’ve been reminded of the power of one of my core values: the Golden Rule. It calls on us to treat others as we want to be treated. That means, to me, that all Americans ultimately should be free to marry the people they love and intend to share their lives with, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that’s why today, after a great deal of soul searching, I’m endorsing marriage equality.”
Carper’s endorsement leaves only seven Democrats in the Senate that have yet to endorse gay marriage. Yahoo! News reports these senators as Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota. Progressive groups continue to pressure Democrats to come out in favor of marriage equality.
As a Republican, Kirk faces an entirely different form of pressure. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio is thus far the only other Republican senator to announce support for gay marriage, and he offered his son’s sexuality as his justification. Even as public opinion shifts in favor of same-sex marriage, Kirk so far stands alone as a Republican senator willing to endorse marriage equality without looking for an excuse.