Mark Steven Kirk was born in Champaign, Illinois, and he graduated from Cornell University, the London School of Economics, and the Georgetown University Law Center. Kirk practiced law during the 1980s and 1990s, and he served in the US Navy as an intelligence officer, being recalled for active duty during the 1999 Kosovo War and for the bombing of Iraq. Kirk was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2000, and he served until 2010, when he decided to run for Barack Obama's former US Senate seat; the acting Senator, Roland Burris, decided not to run for re-election. Kirk supported the conservation of the Great Lakes, believed that climate change was real and caused by humans, pushed for the government to be more aggressive in ensuring that Qatar did not fund terrorism, supported the right to choose, voted in favor of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", supported same-sex marriage, voted to extend federal funding for unemployment benefits, and supported an assault weapons ban. In 2012, he suffered a stroke, and it was a year before he could resume his Senate duties. In 2016, during his re-election campaign, he faced off against Democratic Party challenger Tammy Duckworth. Kirk opposed letting refugees into the country, and he made a racist remark against Duckworth, saying, "I'd forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington" after she referenced her paternal ancestors' service in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The pro-gay Human Rights Campaign withdrew its nomination from Kirk, who lost the Senate election.