Sounding just as much like a candidate as an advocate, Gov. Pat Quinn suggested the same-sex marriage bill he signed might not have become law had he lost his re-election bid in 2010.
“If I wasn’t there to sign the bill, if I had lost the election by 31,000 votes, we wouldn’t be here today,” Quinn said.
And after enjoying a standing ovation Sunday at Equality Illinois’ Tribute Reception and Brunch in the Loop, Quinn called that “a lesson” about getting involved in politics.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” he told members of the crowd at a JW Marriott Chicago ballroom as they dined on scrambled eggs, French toast and mimosas. “It’s all of us. We are the people. We perfect our union.”
Equality Illinois hosted the brunch to pay tribute to political and corporate leaders who helped make advances for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
That included the passage of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which Quinn signed into law last year. County clerks across Illinois were required to issue marriage certificates for the first time June 1 to same-sex couples who sought them.
Quinn’s Republican opponent in 2010, Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, voted against the same-sex marriage law. But in running again for the gubernatorial nomination last year, he showed little interest in trying to repeal it.
Meanwhile, Equality Illinois has accused Quinn’s 2014 Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, of ducking social issues as he tries to win the governor’s office this fall.
Art Johnston, a founder of Equality Illinois, continued the attack at Sunday’s brunch — though he didn’t mention Rauner by name.
“It is hard to believe, but terribly true, that in this June, in this state, there is a candidate for governor who has stated he would not have signed the marriage equality bill,” Johnston said. “If he were governor, this June would not be a time of celebration and pride.”
A Rauner spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also spoke at the event and called the marriage equality bill “a great milestone,” but he said there are “many, many more miles to travel” on the journey to true equality.
“This is a great day,” Emanuel said. “A day that should be appreciated, but it is not our destination.”
Unmentioned was Quinn’s looming deadline to deal with a Chicago pension reform bill pushed by Emanuel that increases employee contributions by 29 percent and reduces employee benefits.
Quinn has until Monday to sign, veto, issue an amendatory veto or do nothing and let the bill take automatic effect.
The mayor and the governor both left before the brunch ended, avoiding reporters’ questions.