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Kirk supports gay marriage

Sen. Mark Kirk. | File Photo

Sen. Mark Kirk. | File Photo

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Updated: May 4, 2013 6:44AM

Declaring “life comes down to who you love and who loves you back,” Sen. Mark Kirk announced Tuesday that he supports gay marriage.

The Highland Park Republican revealed his position in a four-sentence statement posted on his blog.

Kirk, 53, who returned to Congress in January after recovering from a stroke a year earlier, attributed his change of heart on the issue to having a brush with death.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, he also revealed having been influenced by the movie “Lincoln” and watching the esteemed president fight for civil rights of his day.

The switch in positions makes Kirk the highest ranking Illinois Republican to throw his support to gay marriage and only the second Republican in the U.S. Senate.

“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 his blog post. “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.”

For Illinois, Kirk’s statement couldn’t come at a more critical juncture.

Having the state’s highest-ranking — and one of the most popular — Republicans change his tune on the issue gives wavering state House Republicans comfort as well as ample political cover to vote for gay-marriage legislation, which already passed in the Illinois Senate.

“I think this is huge,” said state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the gay-marriage bill’s chief House sponsor.

“It’s a really clear signal this is not a city issue or a suburban issue or a Republican issue or Democratic issue any more,” Harris continued. “It’s simply the right thing to do.”

So far, only one House Republican — state Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) — has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) told the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday he wasn’t surprised by Kirk’s position in favor of gay marriage but stopped short of saying how or if it would move any of his members to get behind Harris’ bill.

“It’s not a big surprise coming from Mark. I think Mark’s image has been a very conservative guy on economic issues and he has had a moderate approach [on social issues] throughout his time in Congress and his time in the Senate.”

Rep. Peter Roskam warned that Washington could be headed for Springfield-like economic disaster and said state lawmakers would be better served to focus on Illinois’ fiscal mess.

“I respect his view, I don’t share his view,” Roskam said of Kirk. Roskam is the state’s second highest-ranking Republican.

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