Illinois Senator Mark Kirk on Tuesday announced his support for gay marriage, making him the second GOP senator to take such a stand.

Kirk appeared to point to a recent stroke for changing his position on the issue.

“When I climbed the Capitol in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others,” Kirk said in a statement. “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.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, praised Kirk in a statement.

“With Senator Kirk's support, the U.S. Senate is now ready to move to the right side of history in support of same-sex couples' freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “Just as we have seen a majority of Americans embrace the freedom to marry, so the Senate is now on the verge of a majority for marriage. As members of Congress are talking with their family, friends, colleagues, and constituents, they come to understand why marriage matters to gay couples as to non-gay, and speak up in support of fairness and freedom. Senator Kirk's heartfelt words about values of treating others as we'd all want to be treated in our precious time on this planet powerfully make the case for the freedom to marry – and the need for decision-makers to end marriage discrimination in the United States.”

Last month, Ohio Senator Rob Portman became the first sitting GOP senator to endorse gay marriage. He said his son's coming out had played a critical role in his decision.

Illinois currently recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, but a law which would extend full marriage to gay couples has cleared the Senate and awaits a vote in the House.

(Related: Tom Carper: Latest Democratic senator to endorse gay marriage.)