As gay and lesbian couples celebrated the same-sex marriage law that took effect Sunday, prominent voices in the gay rights community ripped Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor, and called for him to say where he stands on the issue.
Throughout the campaign Rauner has tried to steer clear of social issues, which are bread-and-butter for some conservatives, but have been exploited by Democrats to help win elections.
Before same-sex marriage became law, he called for the matter to be put on the ballot. Last June, he said “my view is irrelevant” and “why does that matter?” when pressed by a reporter.
In a letter distributed Sunday, the group Equality Illinois accused Rauner of ducking socials issues that turn some voters off.
The letter — signed by over 50 state officials, business leaders and activists — also accuses Rauner of choosing “the side of bigotry and intolerance” by associating with Republicans who oppose same-sex marriage.
“Rauner … claims to be a social moderate. In public and in the media, he claims not to ‘have a social agenda’ and that ‘it doesn’t matter’ how he feels about marriage equality,” the letter states. “Rauner can’t have it both ways. A real leader takes a stand.”
Equality Illinois also alleged that at a Tea Party rally in Quincy last year, Rauner had called for the gay marriage law to be vetoed.
“They haven’t approved it in a referendum, so if I were governor I would veto,” the group alleges Rauner said.
Rauner’s campaign could not verify the account or provide a response to the letter because they could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday evening.
Earlier Sunday, campaign spokesman Mike 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.
State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago said Rauner’s comments make him look “wishy-washy” at best and a “hypocrite” at worst.“If he doesn’t want to support equal rights for all families then he should stand up and say so,” said Harris, who helped usher the marriage law through the House.