In his decade as a congressman, Mark Kirk has made more votes for gay rights than many of his Republican peers.
Still, the U.S. Senate candidate is opposed to gay marriage and is noncommital on repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to his responses to a Daily Herald election questionnaire, though he voted against the measure in May.
His Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, says if elected, he'd fight to promote marriage equality and for an immediate end to the military rule.
Kirk, a five-term congressman from Highland Park, gained popularity in the independent-voting Northwest suburban 10th District for his moderate views. He received a vote rating as high as 85 percent from the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign in recent years for his support of anti-discrimination laws and opposition to constitutional bans on gay marriage.
In 2004, the campaign backed Kirk over an openly gay Democratic challenger in the 10th District. But the organization backed Giannoulias, of Chicago, earlier this year because of Kirk's spring vote against "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military.
Kirk didn't mention that vote in his questionnaire responses but noted he agreed with military leaders that Congress should have waited to vote on the matter until a Defense Department study was completed.
Kirk said he supports civil unions, opposes gay marriage and endorses the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
He had previously opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
He was an original co-sponsor of hate crimes legislation now law and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Giannoulias said he'd fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. "While marriage as a religious institution should be governed by people's faith and the tenets of their religion, marriage as a civil institution should be governed by principles of fairness," he wrote.
He also noted that unmarried domestic partners "should be allowed the same benefits provided under the federal family and medical leave act as all other American families."
Giannoulias said no further review is needed of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.
"Men and women... should be asked only one question: Can they do the job?" he wrote.
The candidates are in a close race to win the Senate seat left open by President Barack Obama, currently held by Roland Burris. The election is Nov. 2.