A Republican Senator has come out in support of equal marriage, and said that, after returning to the Senate in January after ill health, he wanted to have an “open mind”, about such issues.

Mark Kirk of Illinois is the second Republican Senator to come out in support of equal marriage, and follows Rob Portman, who recently offered his support to same-sex marriage.

“Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Senator Kirk, 53, returned to the Senate in January. He spent the year previous recovering from a stroke.

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

Senator Rob Portman who was among the original sponsors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) recently announced that he had changed his anti-equal marriage stance when his son came out.

The Senator spoke at a Republican Party event last weekend, and said that the audience was “very respectful” of his change in stance.

Already, Portman has drawn criticism from religious groups who previously supported him, as Phil Burress of the Ohio group Citizens for Community Values, spoke out to say that he thought Portman was “a very troubled man”, and suggested that he was “distraught” over his son coming out.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake at the weekend spoke out to say that, despite being opposed to equal marriage himself, he thinks a future GOP candidate for the US presidency will support same-sex marriage.

In an interview, the United States House Speaker John Boehner said that he “can’t imagine” he would “ever” change from his current stance in opposition to equal marriage.

A Mormon Arizona Congressman at the weekend said that, despite his own son being gay, his stance on equal marriage hadn’t “evolved” for him too support it.

Earlier in March, a survey conducted in the US revealed support for same-sex marriage had grown overall to be a “mirror image” of ten years ago, with the majority now in favour of legalisation and many calling for a nationwide law.

The poll found that 58% of Americans now support the legalisation of same-sex marriage, while 36% oppose it.