LGBT rights group backs Republican Kirk for Senate reelection
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The LGBT civil rights group Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE in his tight race for reelection in Illinios, making him one of the only two Republicans to receive the group's nod. 

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Kirk became the first Republican senator to back the Equality Act, a major priority for HRC that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of groups constitutionally protected from discrimination, after a January anouncement. Chad Griffen, the HRC president, pointed to that support as a major reason the group decided to throw its weight behind the Republican. 

“Senator Kirk’s leadership on the Equality Act sends a strong message that fairness and equality are bipartisan values," Griffen said in a statement.

"Senator Kirk has fought for us, and we are proud to support him in his re-election campaign.”

The endorsement is a surprise considering the fact that Kirk is set to face off against Rep. Tammy Duckworth, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, in one of the nation's toughest Senate races.

Duckworth has also earned praise on LGBT issues, co-sponsoring the Equality Act in the House and finishing with a higher score on HRC's legislative scorecard.

Brandon Lorenz, a spokesperson with HRC, told The Hill that the scorecard is only a piece of how the group comes to decisions on endorsements. 

"Mark Kirk has had a strong record and scores during his time in Congress, including votes for ENDA and HIV/AIDS funding. The scorecard is one of several criteria used to evaluate members of Congress, but doesn’t capture their full record," he said in an email.

"Because the scorecard reflects the particular mix of votes and cosponsorships that occur in each chamber during a particular Congress, House and Senate members are not rated on the exact same issues."

The HRC endorsed only one other Republican, Rep. Robert Dold, the Illinois Republican who took over Kirk's House seat after he moved up to the Senate.

Dold was the first Republican member of Congress in either house to back the Equality Act.

“Bob Dold has stood up for the right of LGBT Americans to live their lives free from fear of discrimination, and he demonstrated true leadership by becoming the first House Republican to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Equality Act,” Griffen said in another statement.

“Bob Dold has shown he is committed to fairness and equality for all, and we are committed to sending him back to the House in 2016.” 

- Updated at 5:08 p.m.