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Ill. Repub.: Never Met Gay Troops

Ill. Repub.: Never Met Gay Troops

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Mark Kirk (pictured), the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois and a Navy reservist, says he's never met a gay member of the military during any of his deployments.

Kirk made the statement Wednesday night in a televised debate with his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, during a discussion of the proposed repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Kirk, currently a member of the House of Representatives, voted against repeal earlier this year. He told the moderator, Chicago journalist Phil Ponce, he thought it best to wait for the Pentagon study on implementation of repeal before going forward.

"When you remove a policy, you've got to have a new policy," said Kirk, who has been in the military for 21 years. When Ponce asked if he knew any gay service members, he replied, "I don't. Not openly." He also said the Obama administration was "all cattywampus" on DADT, calling for Congress to repeal it even as it defends the policy in court.

Giannoulias, currently the Illinois state treasurer, said he supported repeal. "I think it's offensive and egregious that over the years we've kicked 14,000 Americans out of the military," he said, adding, "At a time when we're actually giving exemptions for felons to serve in the military, we're telling people because of their sexual orientation they're not allowed in the military -- I think it's a step back for this country."

Ponce also asked Giannoulias and Kirk if they supported same-sex marriage or civil unions. Giannoulias said both, and Kirk voiced support for civil unions only.

Watch a debate clip here.

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