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Rauner says he has no social agenda, but LGBT community sure does

This weekend’s Pride Parade in Chicago, the third largest of its kind in the nation, will take on a special, historic significance since the same-sex marriage law became effective in Illinois just this month.

Crowds are expected to exceed last year’s, which were pegged at some 1 million. Wedding ceremonies will play out atop floats as they pass teeming throngs along the route.

Hundreds of registered participants will take in colorful vibes and cheer, including a slew of politicians from both major parties.

“I’m hearing from city sources that we are one of the largest if not the largest (parade) in the city right now,” said Richard Pfeiffer, parade coordinator. “We have 52 elected officials at the city, county, state and federal level.”

With one notable exception.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner will not attend.

“He has other events scheduled that conflict with it,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.

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Please enable Javascript to watch this videoRELATED: Trouble in Boystown for Bruce Rauner

The deadline to sign up as a participant was May 31, but OK.

“They never touched base with us,” Pfeiffer said.

Would Rauner have been invited as a participant if he reached out? “I don’t know, we would have to discuss that,” Pfeiffer said. “I can’t respond to something that didn’t happen.”

The reality is, the LGBT community doesn’t want him.

On Thursday, a group of gay activists held a press conference to highlight a giant banner on Roscoe and Halsted — the heart of Boystown — bearing Rauner’s face and this quote on marriage equality: “If I were governor, I would veto it.”

Not the best ad to look up to if you’re on a float exchanging wedding vows

You might think that when you get down to cold, hard politics, it doesn’t really matter. As a Republican, Rauner’s base isn’t exactly in the heart of Boystown.

But that’s the old way of thinking.

Laws against same-sex marriage are getting overturned state by state. Federal protections have been strengthened. Above all, public opinion polls — in Illinois and nationwide — are reaching record highs in favor of marriage equality.;

Rauner recognizes the changing tide and how that affects him politically.

The Winnetka venture capitalist is angling to carve out a percentage of crossover Democrats and independent voters to help propel him to victory in what is traditionally a blue state.

That’s likely why he dispatched to Boystown the best man on his team as his surrogate to offer a rebuttal: former Illinois GOP Party Chairman Pat Brady.

Brady stepped down from his post after angering those farther to the right when he took a stand in favor of same-sex marriage. Brady said he believed Republicans needed to change their way of thinking and be on the right side of history.

So on Thursday, it was Brady who was offered up to reporters as the trusted voice of the Rauner campaign.

Brady called Rauner a social moderate and a fiscal conservative, and he repeated Rauner’s mantra, which we’ve seen in TV ads with Rauner’s wife: Bruce Rauner has no social agenda.

“He has said all along he was for a referendum, meaning the people should decide the issue. But there are bigger issues. This issue has been decided,” Brady implored. “Bruce Rauner is not an enemy of this issue. He’s comfortable with it. Nothing’s going to change. A year from now marriage equality is probably going to be federal law. It’s a nonissue.”

That’s an olive branch, isn’t it?

“No. We’ve never heard from Rauner himself,” says Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda. “Having Pat Brady there was pure politics. It does show that there was some work to do some outreach there. But the buck stops with the candidate, Bruce Rauner. Until we hear from his mouth that he’s supportive of the LGBT community, we cannot rest on our laurels.”

Martinez and others who attended the Thursday event said they are working to educate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on Rauner’s past comments. Aside from the inescapable, giant banner, they wore T-shirts with red slashes through “Bruce Rauner,” and passed out stickers carrying the same message. Rauner has never said where he stands personally on same-sex marriage.

“Equal marriage affects thousands of couples across Illinois every day,” Martinez said. “Social issues are going to happen in Springfield whether he likes it or not, and he’s going to have to weigh in as governor. To say he has no social agenda tells me he doesn’t know what it means to be governor.”

But politically, Rauner was trying to be different things to different people. It would have been all but impossible to get through the Republican primary and attract the most conservative of the party had he said he backed same-sex marriage.

Martinez wasn’t buying it.

“I think Bruce Rauner had an opportunity, just like Pat Brady did, to say: ‘look this is an issue that is not going away. If people are not being treated equally, that needs to be addressed,” Martinez said.

Earlier this month, Rauner said he had no intention of overturning the law, unless voters had the appetite to put a referendum question on the ballot to repeal it. That infuriated the community again.

All of this, of course, is great news for Gov. Pat Quinn, who lobbied to get same-sex marriage passed by the Illinois Legislature then signed the law last fall.

Rauner’s referendum stance has rankled the LGBT community, which sees it as putting up for a vote a question over someone’s human rights.

Beyond that, Martinez said just because equal marriage is legal doesn’t mean the LGBT community’s work is over.

There are next steps.

“I think (it’s) ensuring that we have leadership that’s going to stand on our side, that marriage is stable and that it takes root here in Illinois,” Martinez said. “As we’ve seen across the nation, the momentum is very real and it’s here.”

The bottom line here for Rauner is a kind of irony.

The candidate who insists he has no social agenda is facing an aggressive backlash from a group that has a pretty darn specific social agenda.

And on Sunday, the community will be a million strong.