Mark Kirk at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in January 2013. | U.S. Senate photo
Updated: May 4, 2013 6:27AM
A man who nearly lost it all to a stroke in January 2012, Sen. Mark Kirk has no interest in mincing words.
“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 wrote on his website Tuesday.
“Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage,” Kirk then declared unequivocally. “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.”
Its beauty is its utter simplicity, a voice all can relate to, even if they don’t agree.
Kirk later said more to the Illinois Radio Network, telling a reporter that he was influenced by President Abraham Lincoln’s fight against slavery, as depicted in the movie “Lincoln,” and his relationships with gay friends and colleagues. Discriminating against them, he said, “is an anathema to me.”
But it was with his brief, four-sentence statement that Illinois’ ranking Republican embraced a key leadership role. For supporters of equal rights in Illinois, Tuesday was a proud day.
As one of just two Senate Republicans to openly support same-sex marriage, Kirk’s bold step will hopefully encourage others on the national scene to do the same.
And in his home state, where the Illinois House is poised to take up a same-sex marriage bill, Kirk’s words can play a pivotal role in advancing the bill. It passed the Illinois Senate 34-21 but is short of votes in the House, with several Republicans reportedly on the fence.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady almost lost his job last month for speaking up for same-sex marriage. Kirk came to his defense to prevent his ouster and is now standing up publicly in support of gay marriage for all to see.
Kirk’s surprise move can also help resurrect his flailing Illinois Republican Party, a motive that isn’t lost on anyone following Illinois politics.
After November’s crushing defeat, Republicans are eager not to be defined as the anti- party — anti-gay marriage, anti-immigration. Kirk’s embrace of Illinois’ more moderate Republican tradition is a wise, even hopeful, sign.
But this is not simply about good politics.
Kirk’s statement was about courage and conviction, a moment to remember what life is all about.