On Tuesday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) became the second sitting Republican to voice his support for same-sex marriage rights. He joined Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who announced that he supported marriage equality on behalf of his gay son in late March.
In a short statement, Kirk alluded to a stroke he suffered last year and his return to Congress with a more compassionate attitude. “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,” he wrote 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.”
Republican Senators backing marriage equality is Congress’ most exclusive club, but more may be joining it in the near future. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) mused this week that her position on the issue may be “evolving” toward equality, a trend President Obama started way before his second term.
Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware, also announced Tuesday that he was on Team Equality. Posting on Facebook, Carper said, “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.”
LGBT advocates noted that Carper’s and Kirk’s announcements brought the total number of Senators endorsing marriage equality to 50, or exactly one half of the upper chamber. “Senator Kirk and Senator Carper have shown tremendous leadership in announcing their support for marriage equality. It is a sign of our progress that so many of their colleagues are showing the same political will,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement.