(CNN) - Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, a socially moderate Republican, announced on Tuesday his support for same-sex marriage, becoming the second Republican in the chamber to support it.
"Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage," he wrote in a statement. "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."
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio became the first Republican in the U.S. Senate to endorse same-sex marriage. He announced last month that he was swayed on the issue by his son, who told his family he was gay.
Seven of the 55 Democratic senators have not endorsed same-sex marriage. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, announced his support earlier on Tuesday.
“Senator Kirk and Senator Carper have shown tremendous leadership in announcing their support for marriage equality," said Chad Griffin, the president of the pro-gay rights group Human Rights Campaign. "It is a sign of our progress that so many of their colleagues are showing the same political will. Democrat or Republican, there can simply be no excuse for standing on the wrong side of history when it comes to this basic question of justice.”
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in two cases on the issue, including a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Kirk, 53, returned to the Senate in January after spending a year in recovery from a stroke.
"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 Tuesday's statement.
He served in the U.S. House from 2000 to 2010, where he voted twice against constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.
Kirk holds the Senate seat which President Barack Obama vacated in 2008.
On behalf of the thousands of Ohioans that DO believe in equal rights for all, I just want to apologize for @Ohioan's completely irrational belief system. I promise, we aren't all so narrow minded and obtuse.
After it is obvious that it is going to happen, now the GOP wants to get in with being "hip". You shouldn't have to wait until it is popular to do the right thing.
"Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back – government has no place in the middle."
Religion doesn't belong in the mix, either.
The GOP is afraid of becoming an irrelevant party, and that is why they are showing some empathy toward immigrants and gays. In truth they have absolute no sincerity for the wellbeing for either.
@ Boomer in Mo
People who do not change their mind, they never think at all. How can anyone change his/her mind without thinking first? This is the huge problem we are facing at the moment. People claim: "Am a conservative, am conservative, am conservative". So what? does it mean you can not think and make up your mind accordingly??? Hey, even the pope changes his mind/his name. It is all about thinking and decide to take the right path.
Isn't it great to see how Republicans one by one are now coming out in favor of gay marriage rights to join Democrats and the President! It's equally fun to see how hard-line strong Republicans must be squirming all over the place right now seeing that their former means to win elections are fast coming to a close.
Although I understand the cynicism directed at such politicians, every new person who supports gay marriage should be welcome. We're certainly not going to find success by excluding people, as the republican party has so aptly proven over the years.
He's selling his soul for a few votes...
@Jo: are you willing to ban divorce when there are children?
"All great Democracies fall .. due to moral decay or corruption and this is our beginning .. very sad"
Just exactly which "great democracies" have failed?
Hypocrisy rules OK.. sounds like your local Grand Obstructionist Party member... staunch on many things, until it is politically astute (or they won't get re-elected) to do an about-face!
Would you expect anything different fro a Politician from Illinois? Hate to let him in on a secret but it will not happen!
The Republicans can never win. I do not know why they change their thinking and votes. No matter if the GOP are against or for gay marriage, the democrats will always blame them as being hypocrites. They might as well hold up to their original value system and not change because of politics.
As a conservative in the state if Illinois, I am proud of Sen. Kirk. Glad to see the moderate generation taking a stand against the old guard. We need a lot more conservatives like Kirk!!! Well done my man!
In time, the only lawmakers who will oppose marriage equality are southern Republicans ones who align with the Tea Party.
Both Senators Kirk and Portman should be acknowledged for doing what's right. It's not easy to do what's right when your base is coming at you with pitchforks . . .
There's sumthin happinin here
Besides the GOPs come out to support some social agenda, we also need to check whose signature on the Grover Norquist's no tax pledge before we cast our vote to them.
Republicans are such a mystery to me. When they don't like a certain issue, they say government should not be involved, but when they want their agenda passed they rely on the government to inforce it. Weird!!
Good job Senator Kirk!! It's not easy to hold onto your convictions in the face of stiff opposition within your party, but that is what leadership is all about!
GOOD FOR SENATOR KIRK!
Didn't Obama flip flop on this issue not too long ago? Do you doubt his sincerity or just that of the Republicans who are flip flopping?
Can you hear it folks???
...Tea Party becoming more and more irrelevant every day...
Glad to see it. Even though I view most "conservative" republicans as hypocrites and socially backwards, I'm very happy to see that some humanity exists even among republicans! Senator, you are welcome to join the decent and socially progressive people in this country. The people opposed to gay marriage would also have opposed the civil rights movement and womens' equal rights. They are always on the wrong side of history.