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Activists rap Rauner’s let-people-decide view on gay marriage

Bruce Rauner

Bruce Rauner

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Updated: July 8, 2013 6:47AM

As he announced his run for governor this week, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner said the best way to deal with the same-sex marriage question is by taking it out of the hands of the Legislature and putting the question to the people.

However, there’s a major problem with going that route, according to gay rights activists.

A people’s initiative on an Illinois ballot would do nothing. But getting a constitutional amendment question on the ballot would mean putting the question right back to state lawmakers who failed to call the measure for a vote last week.

“The only way there can be a ballot initiative is an advisory referendum, which would not be binding,” said Camilla Taylor, senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal, which has been in the thick of the legal and legislative battles to legalize same sex marriage. “It’s simply a statement of desire on the part of the voters for the Legislature to do something.”

There is a way to amend the constitution — through the General Assembly.

“The only way to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot is by passing both houses with a three-fifths majority,” Taylor said. If that passed both houses by a super majority it then would go to voters.

That’s not what gay rights groups are seeking since they are in the thick of a legal fight that argues the constitution does allow for same-sex marriages in Illinois.

“He’s for letting the voters decide, and you wrote there are actually two ways to put it to voters,” said Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf in a follow-up email. “Not sure how that’s inconsistent, but his focus is on improving Illinois’ job climate, cleaning up Springfield and improving education.”

The same-sex marriage question continues to dog Rauner even as he refuses to divulge his own position and tries to change the subject.

Support for the hot-button issue could drive away the more conservative faction of the party in a contested Republican primary. That faction already drove out its former GOP chair after he announced his support for gay marriage. Rauner said earlier this week that he’s toured the state and people were concerned about education, the economy and jobs.

“My view is irrelevant,” Rauner told the Sun-Times on Wednesday about his personal view on same sex marriage. “Why does that matter?”

During a press availability in Peoria on Thursday, a Sun-Times reporter asked Rauner where he stood on gay marriage.

“Should Illinois legalize gay marriage?” the reporter called out.

Rauner responded: “I guess we’re done,” and walked away from the podium, taking no more questions.

Zach Buchheit reported from Peoria

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