Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has extended family-leave benefits to gay employees in domestic partnerships, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Giannoulias' executive order, signed on Sunday, will allow gay and lesbian treasurer office employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a sick partner or relative. Previously, only married employees were eligible for the benefits.

The 34-year-old Giannoulias said the benefits were not a “bonus or perk” but “the same basic rights other employees have come to expect.”

He also said he signed the order because it was the right thing to do, and added: “It's not about politics.”

Opponents, however, are certain to make political hay over the new benefits, which come at the tail-end of a four-year term as Giannoulias battles Republican Mark Kirk for the Senate seat once held by President Barrack Obama. Gay politics have already heated the contest.

Earlier in the month, Kirk denied a claim by prominent outing blogger Mike Rogers that he's gay. Rogers said he outed Kirk after the Illinois representative voted against attaching a “Don't Tell, Don't Tell” repeal amendment to the defense budget bill. The amendment would reverse the 1993 law that forbids gay troops from serving openly. During the Republican primary, Kirk faced similar allegations by his GOP primary opponent, Andy Martin. Martin accused Kirk of being gay and in the pocket of gay rights groups.

But the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate, appears to disagree. The group has endorsed the candidacy of Giannoulias, a Democrat who supports gay marriage.

When asked why bloggers continue to out him as gay, Kirk told Chicago CW affiliate WGN: “Because I guess I got divorced, but I hope to remarry one day.”

“To a woman?” the reported asked.

“Absolutely,” Kirk replied.

Giannoulias' office, which includes about 180 employees, is the first state agency to extend the benefit.