GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner talks with Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Natasha Korecki at the East Bank Club on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Peter Holderness / Sun-Times
Updated: July 10, 2014 6:15AM
When it comes to mixing partying with politics, no one does it better.
June 1 was marriage day in Illinois, the biggest day in gay rights history. The corks were popping, and so was the political rhetoric.
On Sunday the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community made history as same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois. Nuptials kicked off around the state. Amid the festivities, LGBT advocates dispatched an “open letter” denouncing their new Enemy No. 1: Bruce Rauner.
“Today, as we celebrate the official commencement of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, we honor those officials who stood for freedom and equality,” read the letter, issued by Equality Illinois and signed by nearly 70 elected officials, activists and civic leaders.
“We also remember those public figures, like Bruce Rauner, who chose the side of bigotry and intolerance.”
The 2014 Republican gubernatorial nominee won’t disclose his personal views on same-sex marriage, and has repeatedly said he has no social issues agenda.
LGBT advocates attacked Rauner for refusing to “take a stand” on marriage equality. Last year, they noted, at a tea party event in downstate Quincy, he said of same-sex marriage: “They haven’t approved it in a referendum, so if I were governor, I would veto.”
And, they charged, a Rauner administration “would very likely be working behind-the-scenes to block new legislation and erode the existing laws protecting our families.”
On Monday morning marriage, advocates gathered at the Daley Center to slam Rauner at a press conference, then trotted off to the Museum of Contemporary Art to attend a gay marriage ceremony.
Rauner, meanwhile, sent good wishes to the celebrants, via a report in the Chicago Tribune.
“I have many gay friends, and if they choose to marry, I hope they have great lives together,” he was quoted as saying Monday, following a speech to the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Then he stepped up his game, touching on the possibility of repealing the historic marriage law. “Now it’s passed, it’s the law, I don’t have any agenda to change it, and the only way I’d change it is if it were done in a referendum — the voters said that they’d want to change it,” he said, according to the Tribune.
His messaging is murky, but Rauner may be tossing out a bright red herring to comfort conservative voters. He must reassure conservative GOP voters; he will need them energized to win in November. Rauner’s utterances about “no social issues” are aimed at comforting suburban women voters on their concerns about abortion, gun control and LGBT rights. He knows that in 2010 those same voters spurned GOP conservative nominee Bill Brady and gave a razor’s edge to Pat Quinn.
Where does Rauner stand? LGBT rights groups have a long track record of pinning politicians to the wall and making them stick. They punch above their weight.
Remember Glenn Poshard? The 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee was perceived as anti-gay. He was a no-show at that summer’s Pride Parade in Chicago. LGBT activists castigated Poshard up and down North Halsted Street, and it was downhill from there. Poshard lost to Republican George Ryan.
There is plenty more partying to come. The activists are organizing. This year’s Pride Parade comes June 29. Where will Rauner stand?