Illinois Senate candidates Mark Kirk, Alexi Giannoulias debate gay rights

Thu. October 28, 2010 1:09 AM by News Staff

Chicago, IL - In a spirited, free-flowing debate on Wednesday night, Senate candidates Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias talked about gay rights.

The debate was moderated by "Chicago Tonight" anchor Phil Ponce and broadcast on WTTW.

Ponce asked the candidates if they supported gay marriage or civil unions. Kirk said he supported civil unions, and Giannoulias said he supported both.

Kirk, who has served in the Navy for 21 years, got further in-depth on gay rights when he was asked about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"I think we should wait for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to report as they are scheduled in December; this was actually the recommendation of Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates and the President," Kirk said. "But Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi wanted to move forward anyway.

"The problem here is that when you remove a policy, you have to have a new policy. I look at this from the perspective of a 1st sergeant running a platoon or a chief running a department on a ship," Kirk continued. "The first thing they are going to ask is, 'If I have problems, what am I supposed to do?'

Kirk said he had never know any openly gay servicemembers in his 21 years in the military.

Kirk also said that President Obama had failed to offer leadership on the issue.

"The [Obama] administration is all caddywumpus on its policy," Kirk said. "It says it wants this repealed right away. Then a court says to repeal it now, and the administrations brings a suit to block the court."

Giannoulias was more straight and to the point.

"I think it's offensive and egregious that over the years we have kicked 14,000 Americans out of the military," Giannoulias said. "These are men and women who are willing to die for their country and we say they're not good enough."