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GOP Sen. Mark Kirk backs same-sex marriage

Joining an increasingly large chorus of lawmakers and voters both, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., announced Tuesday his support for same-sex marriage -- making him the second Republican senator in a month to come out in favor of marriage equality.

Kirk, who returned to Congress several months ago after suffering from a debilitating stroke, said in a statement his illness has inspired in him "greater respect for others" and that he now believes "same-sex couples should have the right to civil 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," he said in the statement. "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 announcement follows that of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who announced last month that he too supports marriage equality, a decision he said was prompted by learning that his college-aged son is gay. The position is relatively unique among Republican lawmakers - Portman and Kirk are the only GOP senators so far to espouse this position publicly - but most Democratic senators are openly in support of same-sex marriage.

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of last week's Supreme Court hearings for two landmark same-sex marriage cases, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her change of heart on the issue. Several Democratic senators followed in rapid succession, including Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., on Monday and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who announced his support on Facebook Tuesday after "a great deal of soul searching."

There are now only seven sitting Senate Democrats who still oppose same-sex marriage: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

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