(Photo: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang)
Illinois GOP Senator Mark Kirk officially voiced his support for same-sex marriage on Tuesday, making him the second Senate Republican to do so.
"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, who represents the 120th congressional district of Illinois, said in a brief statement released Tuesday.
"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," the senator added.
Kirk suffered a stroke in January 2012, causing him to miss nearly a year of working on Capitol Hill due to long-term physical impairments.
Kirk's reference to "climbing the Capitol steps in January" relates to his Jan. 3 return to the Senate following his year of lengthy rehabilitation.
The Highland Park senator has been serving the Illinois Senate since 2010, and prior to that he served nearly 10 years in the House, according to the Chicago Tribune.
As The Washington Post notes, Kirk, hailing from the blue state of Illinois, has made a reputation for himself as being a more liberal Republican through previous support for certain measures, including recently approving gun control measures.
Kirk joins Illinois' other senator, Democrat Dick Durbin, in his support for same-sex marriage.
The senator has received support for his decision from the pro-gay marriage group Freedom to Marry, which described his words as "heartfelt" in a Tuesday statement.
Earlier in March, Ohio GOP Senator Rob Portman became the first GOP senator to voice his support for same-sex marriage, saying that he changed his mind on the issue after his son became an open homosexual two years prior.
Both Portman and Kirk represent rarities in the Republican Party regarding same-sex marriage, as the GOP's official platform defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, and all major Republican leaders continue to oppose same-sex marriage.
Arizona GOP Representative Matt Salmon said in a recent interview that he continues to oppose same-sex marriage in spite of having a homosexual son, saying that although he loves his son, he doesn't believe in changing social policy to redefine marriage.
"My view is while I don't believe we should be vitriolic and try to enact harmful policies, by the same token, I'm just not there as far as believing in my heart that we should change 2,000 years of social policy in favor of a redefinition of the family," Salmon told KTVK-TV in a recent interview.
Others contend that while the United States seems focused on providing marriage benefits to all, it fails to see the consequences which may ensue if same-sex marriage is legalized on a national level.
Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, said in a recent interview with NPR that the issue of same-sex marriage is a cultural one, and Christians must not bend their spiritual values to conform to the expectations of culture.
Ultimately, Daly does not believe culture will ever be able to trump the timeless teachings found in Scripture.
"I'm not overly concerned because I'm not going to stake my sensibility, my spiritual sensibility, in the culture. The culture has changed over the years and this is not new," Daly said regarding the current public fervor over same-sex marriage.
"I think in the end, even if we go in the direction of allowing same-sex marriage, I think culture at some point will go, 'whoa, what have we done here,'" he added.
Although the majority of the U.S. Senate now supports same-sex marriage, there still exist seven Democratic senators who have continued to oppose the redefinition of marriage.
These Democratic senators include Tim Johnson (S.D.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), and Mark Pryor (Ark.).
The Supreme Court is reviewing two cases relating to same-sex marriage, the first challenging California's ban on same-sex marriage, and the second challenging the federal the Defense of Marriage Act.
Supreme Court Justices will reach their conclusions on these two cases come June.