On the campaign trail, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has tried to steer clear of the social issues that are near-and-dear to some conservatives.
But on Monday – one day after same-sex couples were legally allowed to marry across Illinois – Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn tried to drive that particular issue to the forefront.
Quinn stood front and center as the sole member in the wedding party of gay-rights activists Patrick Bova, 76, and James Darby, 82.
Fresh off a spring legislative session in which Democratic majorities failed to act on several of Quinn’s key campaign issues, the ceremony gave Quinn the opportunity to celebrate something that he does call a success: signing the state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.
Bova and Darby, who say they’ve been together for over 50 years, lobbied the Legislature to pass a gay marriage bill. And they were guests of Quinn during a bill signing ceremony last November.
The governor beamed when the two exchanged vows, rings and a kiss during the short candle-lit wedding at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Afterwards, Quinn went after Rauner, without mentioning his opponent by name.
“I didn’t need a referendum to tell me what was the right thing to do,” Quinn told reporters, tweaking Rauner, who once said he would have vetoed the bill because the public was not asked how they felt through a referendum on the ballot.
“The right thing was to pass the marriage equality bill and for me, the governor, to sign it into law,” Quinn said.
Then the governor blasted those who oppose marriage between same-sex couples, saying: “I think they are on the wrong side of history.”
Monday afternoon the Rauner campaign fired back, suggesting Quinn was trying to change subjects after an unsuccessful legislative session.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise that Pat Quinn is trying to change the subject from his disastrous legislative session and desire to increase taxes on every worker in Illinois by $1,000 a year,” campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.
During the recently adjourned session Quinn walked away without the passage of a minimum-wage increase, an extension of the 2011 temporary income tax hike or $500 property-tax rebates for homeowners.
Quinn’s attack on Rauner on the subject of same-sex marriage comes as a chorus of gay rights activists have called on Rauner to say where he stands on the issue.
Before same-sex marriage became law, Rauner called for the matter to be put on the ballot. Last June, he said “my view is irrelevant” and “why does that matter?” when a reporter pressed him on where he stood.
On Sunday, Schrimpf declined to reveal Rauner’s personal feelings on same-sex marriage because “Bruce does not have an agenda on social issues.” But he said Rauner is not in favor of overturning the new law unless a referendum on the ballot calls for it. The campaign also noted Rauner was endorsed by GOProud, a Republican pro-gay rights group.
And Schrimpf added that Rauner does wish the best for newly-married same-sex couples.
“He wishes them congratulations and many years of happiness together,” Schrimpf said.