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Same-sex marriage likely to remain issue in GOP governor’s race

Kirk Dillard

Kirk Dillard

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Updated: December 7, 2013 6:41AM

The state Legislature may have resolved a hot-button social issue on Tuesday — but that doesn’t mean questions about same-sex marriage are off the table for four Republican candidates running for governor.

It’s likely to re-emerge throughout the Republican gubernatorial primary — even as GOP contenders push to shift the focus to the state’s dismal finances.

State Sen. Bill Brady and state Sen. Kirk Dillard each voted against the measure — for a second time — on Tuesday. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford has publicly opposed the measure, but has been under the radar at recent key events involving the issue.

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner has not disclosed his personal position on same-sex marriage, saying instead he believed the matter should go to a referendum. So far, it has allowed Rauner to keep the peace with conservatives while not closing the door on moderates.

Still, Tuesday’s passage will do nothing to quell questions over where Rauner stands, says political consultant Don Rose.

“Rauner will get a series of questions on the social issues that he’s refused to take a position on,” Rose said. “The guy who won’t take a position is always going to get the same questions. Very few people get away with ducking, particularly on hot-button stuff.”

The issue is likely to have the most impact in Republican legislative primaries, Rose said.

The same-sex bill passed Tuesday largely with Democratic support. Only three of the 47 Republicans in the House voted for the measure.

Rauner’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. However, at the same time the Illinois Senate was voting on the measure Tuesday, a Rauner campaign email went out asking for donations.

“In less than a year, you will have the opportunity to start Illinois’ comeback by voting to switch governors,” it read.

Rutherford also could not be reached for comment. While LGBT groups have lauded Rutherford in the past for being friendly to gay rights issues in his time as a lawmaker, Rutherford has publicly stated he’s opposed to gay marriage.

Last month, Dillard and Brady spoke at a rally opposing same-sex marriage in the Capitol, but Rutherford and Rauner were no-shows.

Both Dillard and Brady said they voted against the measure on Tuesday because they believed it was unconstitutional.

Dillard said: “I believe in traditional marriage, which is a tenet of my religious beliefs. The Hinsdale Republican added: “I don’t know whether having gay marriage behind us changes anything in the governor’s race. Only time will tell what the gay marriage vote will mean politically.”

Dillard said it was too soon to know whether he might suffer voter backlash from a no vote.

Brady, a Bloomington Republican, took a shot at Rauner.

“He’s dodged every issue. He’s got to come to grips with the fact that you can’t run for governor and not tell people what your views are,” Brady told the Sun-Times Tuesday. As for the race, Brady said his voting ‘no’ again: “doesn’t change our campaign at all.”

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