WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Kirk, in his first speech from the Senate floor since suffering a major stroke in January 2012, urged his colleagues Monday to support a measure to ban workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender workers.
Kirk, R-Ill, .asked permission from the presiding officer to deliver his remarks while seated, and addressed the Senate for about a minute. He spoke from the desk of the Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Calling for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Kirk said: “I would say that I have been silent for the last two years due to a stroke, a little under two years ago.
“I’ve risen to speak because I’m so, because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute, which is, you know this is not a major change to law. I would say it’s already the law in 21 states.”
“I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure,” he said, citing the late Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen’s support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are cosponsors of ENDA, which passed a procedural hurdle today when more than three-fifths of the Senate voted to advance the bill. The measure is believed to have poor prospects in the House.
Kirk had two aides with him during his remarks. Afterward, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., walked over to Kirk to thank him for his remarks. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, still wearing an overcoat, came on to the floor shortly afterward to give Kirk a firm handshake.
Off the Senate floor, Kirk noted that he had not missed a single vote since he returned to the Senate in January 2013 and was “coming along very nicely” in his recovery. Spokesman Lance Trover confirmed that Kirk’s remarks were his first from the Senate floor since his return to the chamber.
Last week, Kirk walked from his office in the Hart building to the Senate floor for the first time since his stroke, telling a reporter then he was “witnessing history.” More often he uses a wheelchair to travel Capitol Hill.
On Sunday, Kirk climbed 41 stories of the Willis Tower along with others during a benefit for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where he underwent extensive therapy after his stroke.