Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., spoke on the Senate floor today for the first time since suffering a debilitating stroke in early 2012.
Kirk, who was elected in 2010 to the seat formerly occupied by President Obama, sat at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk as he spoke in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that bans discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I have been silent for the last two years due to a stroke a little under two years ago,” Kirk said in a speech lasting less than one minute. “I’ve risen to speak because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute.
“This is not a major change to law. I would say it is already the law in 21 states,” he added. “I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure, in the true tradition of Everett McKinley Dirksen and Abraham Lincoln, men who gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 13th amendment to the Constitution.”
Kirk, 54, is a co-sponsor of ENDA.
Kirk’s return to the Senate has been marked by small milestones showing recovery from his stroke. When he returned to the Senate in January, Kirk walked up to the steps of the U.S. Capitol with many of his Senate colleagues and Vice President Joe Biden applauding his feat.
Kirk climbed the steps at Chicago’s Willis Tower as part of a fundraiser last November. He is expected to have some physical impairments but recover cognitive functions, the Chicago Tribune reported last year.