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Mark Kirk Gay Rumors Alight Anew

By Joseph Erbentraut in News on Jun 2, 2010 4:40PM

2010_06_02_markkirk.jpg It has not been a great week for Republican Congressman and Senate candidate Mark Kirk. Already busy cleansing his campaign website of any mention of military awards he never actually received, Kirk now faces an outing of a different sort. Relying on several anonymous sources and one vague interaction at a party, gay political blogger Mike Rogers reports Kirk is a closeted gay man.

Of course, the gay Kirk rumor is not new. Late last year, perennial far-right candidate Andy Martin contended Kirk is part of a “Republican Party homosexual club" in a campaign ad. But the resurrected rumor's source - the same one that previously outed hypocrites including Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Mark Foley - is worth a closer look. Describing his reasoning for outing Kirk, Rogers points to the Senate candidate's vote against last week's Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise repeal, despite previously holding a positive voting record on LGBT issues:

"Until now, Mark Kirk elected not to play the typical Washington game. Instead of supporting his party's dismal record on gay rights, Kirk received Human Rights Campaign ratings of 67% in 2002, 88% in 2004, 76% in 2006 and 85% in 2008. That's more impressive than a lot of Democrats ... Times have changed. Now, for the first time in his congressional career, [Kirk] really had the chance to stand up and do what is right with the power of a vote ... Then [he] became a hypocrite."

Kirk's camp has yet to respond to Rogers' report, but both he and ex-wife Kimberly Vertolli have vehemently denied the previous gay rumors.

In response to the rumor, Time Out Chicago editor-in-chief Frank Sennett wondered if the lawmaker's vote against Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal was justifiable in Rogers' outing. Following the Craig story breaking, Sennett interviewed Rogers regarding his standards of outing hypocritical, closeted politicos. This time, Sennett observes, "This is already shaping up to be the ugliest Senate campaign of an ugly election cycle. If the allegation is true, Kirk’s vote does seem hypocritical, but where’s the line?"

While it remains to be seen how the renewed gay rumor may affect voters, Kirk's budding social conservatism was also noted by the Human Rights Campaign, who last week withdrew their endorsement of Kirk in the Senate race, favoring Alexi Giannoulias instead.