And then there were 50


There are now 50 U.S. senators who support same-sex marriage. Most recently, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois joined Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio as the only Republican senators who publicly endorse gay marriage as a basic legal and human right.

The politics of this issue are changing fast, as members of Congress catch up with demographics, cultural changes, and their own family and life experiences. Getting to 50 means that the Senate not only is on the threshold of a majority, but also is approaching the number needed to withstand a filibuster.

In Ohio, popular opinion and political action could outpace legal action on gay marriage. A proposal that would legalize same-sex marriage could appear on the state ballot this year or next.

During Mr. Kirk’s 2010 Senate race, he supported civil unions but opposed gay marriage and endorsed the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He is a commander in the Naval Reserve. While he was in the U.S. House, he voted against repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that formerly banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

Mr. Kirk suffered a major stroke in 2012, and it took him almost a year to recover. He said that experience changed him, as a man and as a politician. “They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and this stroke put me into a very deep foxhole,” he said.

Here is his simple, moving statement on same-sex 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. 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.”