Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)

As of today, exactly half of the members of the US Senate support marriage rights for same-sex couples. Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware, and Senator Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, both announced their support of marriage equality.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper on Tuesday became the latest Senate Democrat to publicly endorse marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“As our society has changed and evolved, so too has the public’s opinion on gay marriage – and so has mine,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I pray every day for God to grant me the wisdom to do what is right. Through my prayers and conversations with my family and countless friends and Delawareans, I’ve been reminded of the power of one of my core values: the Golden Rule. It calls on us to treat others as we want to be treated. That means, to me, that all Americans ultimately should be free to marry the people they love and intend to share their lives with, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that’s why today, after a great deal of soul searching, I’m endorsing marriage equality.”

Childless and divorced from his his wife, Mark Kirk has been reported to be a closeted gay man, with accusations from the right-wing of his own party and blog reporting by Mike Rogers, the most feared man on Capitol Hill. Reported the Huffington Post in 2010:

Rogers cited several sources who contacted him following Kirk’s DADT vote. Two men, whose names were not given, claimed to have had sexual relations with Kirk while he was in college.

The post also claims that Kirk alluded to his homosexuality to Rogers himself at a 2004 party in Washington:

It was at that party that I met Mark Kirk. I was introduced to him by the person I came with and at the time did not realize he was a member of the House. As my friend walked away, Kirk asked me if the man who introduced us was “single or attached.” When I said that he had a partner, Kirk replied disappointingly, “oh, well.” At the end of that interaction I walked away and didn’t think much of it at the time.

Kirk, who has no children and divorced his wife Kimberly Vertolli last year, denied that he was gay during Martin’s attacks in 2009. Vertolli also insisted to Chicago gay blog Feast of Fun that her ex-husband is not gay.

Today’s report on Mark Kirk’s change of heart seems to indicate that his recovery from a serious stroke had some bearing on his support of marriage equality:

“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 wrote on his blog.

“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 is the second sitting Republican Senator to endorse marriage equality, following Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman last month.

With two GOP Senators having endorsed marriage equality, there are now seven Democratic Senators who remain opposed to same-sex couples’ civil right to marry the person they love. Today, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post has ranked them according to his opinion of how likely they are to change their positions: Tim Johnson (SD-retiring), Bill Nelson (FL), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Mark Pryor (AR).