Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk took to the Senate floor this week for the first time in almost two years, to speak in favour of gay rights, in promoting his co-sponsored Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).

After asking to remain seated, Senator Kirk made his brief comments. He suffered a stroke two years ago, and subsequently underwent brain surgery.

“I would say that I have been silent for the past two years due to a stroke a little under two years ago. I have risen to speak because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute, which is not a major change to law. It is already the law in 21 states. I think it is 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 consitution.

The bill, which would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans yesterday passed the US Senate – but it faces immense hurdles in the House of Representatives where the Republican Party holds the balance of power.

Senator Kirk earlier this year came 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.