CHICAGO - The New York Times Magazine's Robert Draper followed Illinois' U.S. Senator Mark Kirk as he visited a gay bar prior to Chicago's annual Gay Pride Parade the last weekend in June. Draper then used the event to introduce the re-election challenges Kirk will have in November with Donald J. Trump at the top of the ticket.
...Senator Mark Kirk rolled into an uptown Chicago bar in his wheelchair to take part in the city’s 47th annual L.G.B.T. Pride Parade, wearing a red polo shirt, charcoal khakis and the abashed half-smile of a 56-year-old man who has already assessed his long odds of blending in. He hoisted himself up and made his way into the crowd, leaning on the cane he has used since suffering a severe stroke four years ago.
A few young people wearing robin’s-egg blue Equality Illinois T-shirts approached him. They shook his hand and thanked him for being one of the few Republican senators to sponsor the Equality Act, which would extend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T. people. The encounters tended to be brief, because even in the most favorable circumstances Kirk has always been a somewhat awkward conversationalist. Crowded up against a middle-aged woman wearing a rainbow tutu, he offered: “My friend has a 3-year-old granddaughter who wears nothing but tutus. It’d be good to get her one of those. Good for, er, political purposes.”
On his way out the door, Kirk found his path impeded by another wheelchair-using politician: Representative Tammy Duckworth, his Democratic opponent in November’s election, who lost both of her legs to a grenade as an Army helicopter pilot during the Iraq war. The two wincingly shook hands — “Whenever you run into your opponent,” he told me later, “there’s always that fake smile” — but said nothing.
Out on North Broadway, where the festivities were about to begin, Kirk climbed into the gray Mustang convertible that would ferry him through the parade. Before long, Duckworth materialized nearby. The 48-year-old congresswoman wore a rainbow-colored tie-dyed T-shirt, several beaded necklaces and a halo of flowers in her hair. “Woo hoo!” she hollered as onlookers called out her name. Meanwhile Kirk — a man who is palpably of, by and for the northern suburbs of Chicago — sat in the passenger seat of the Mustang and cast a pensive gaze at the gray clouds gathering overhead.
The rest of Draper's story is HERE.
Despite Republican conservatives' strong stand in favor of traditional marriage, Kirk has raked in endorsements from the LGBT Community - including the Human Rights Campaign, who wrote in the spring that they were especially pleased with his pro-LGBT legislative record as U.S. Senator:
Senator Kirk has been a strong ally in the Republican Party. He was the first Senate Republican to cosponsor the Equality Act, a critical step towards full federal equality. He was one of fewer than a dozen Congressional Republicans to support marriage equality, and he was also the Republican lead on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). He supported the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. And, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would never have passed the Senate without the leadership of Republican Senators including Mark Kirk.