Mark Kirk becomes second GOP senator to back gay marriage

A second Republican senator has announced his support for gay marriage, with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joining Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Kirk, who recently returned to the Senate after suffering a significant stroke, suggested in a statement that his near-death experience has changed his perspective.

"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 said. "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 comes from a blue state and has carved out a moderate record, including recently supporting additional gun control measures.

Portman announced his support under similarly extraordinary circumstances — his son came out as gay in 2011.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another moderate, said last week that her views on same-sex marriage are "evolving" but stopped shy of supporting it.

In the House, two Republicans signed a brief to the Supreme Court urging it to legalize same-sex marriage — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) — but no others appear to support gay marriage.

RELATED: Other prominent politicians who support gay marriage

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · April 2, 2013