An unusual alliance is shaping the debate of gay marriage in Illinois. GOP Party Chairman Pat Brady is giving his "full support" to a bill in the state legislature that would legalize same-sex marriage even though the state party platform only supports traditional marriage. Although the bill passed by an 8-5 vote in a Senate committee, it is still unclear if it can muster the necessary votes to pass before the current legislative session ends next Wednesday.
"More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way," Brady told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value – that the law should treat all citizens equally."
Brady attempted to clarify that he was advocating for gay marriage as an individual citizen and not on behalf of the state Republican Party, whose platform specifically states that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
Nonetheless, the chairman's personal views are in direct conflict with the party's stance on traditional marriage.
Section V (C) of the Illinois Republican Party platform titled "Embrace of the Traditional Family" reads:
"…not universally achievable, the ideal, best environment for children is within a two‐parent family based on the principle of marriage between one man and one woman. The Republican Party endorses a constitutional amendment protecting our Defense of Marriage Act and enshrining in constitutional law marriage as it is defined in our 'DOMA.'"
And paragraph (D) goes on to say: "Our laws should strongly support and celebrate the loving commitment a man and a woman make to each other in marriage. Our laws should strongly support and celebrate a loving, married couple bringing new life into the world and rearing their children in a secure and nurturing environment from conception to adulthood. No law should undermine the importance of that union, divide that union nor unduly burden the efforts of parents to rear a family in a safe and nurturing environment."
Mike Bigger, a State Farm Agent and the 18th Congressional District representative for the Illinois Republican Party, was surprised to read about Chairman Brady's position on the issue and says he believes most Republicans, especially those inside the party and outside of Chicago, oppose gay marriage.
"I believe everyone has the right to their own opinion, but as the platform committee chairman and a practicing Catholic, I am in complete support of the party's position on marriage," Bigger told The Christian Post on Friday. "And to my knowledge, Chairman Brady's position on the issue was never discussed with anyone inside the party prior to his comments surfacing in the news."
Bigger also said that an "overwhelming" majority of Illinois Republicans and many rural Democrats support traditional marriage and are socially conservative.
"When people look at Illinois politics, all they typically see is the liberal ideals that come out of Cook County [Chicago]. But I can tell you that south of I-80, you would be hard-pressed to find a Democrat legislator that could vote for gay marriage without losing a seat or taking an incredible amount of heat from their constituents. Overall, I think Illinois is much more conservative and pro-family than people realize."
Not surprising to Bigger and others political observers, the vote to move the gay marriage bill to the floor by the Senate Executive Committee fell along party lines with all eight Democrats supporting the bill and all five Republicans opposing it.
On Thursday, it looked as if the bill was headed for a full vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate during next week's special session. However, developments on Friday morning made it look less likely a vote in both the Senate and House would be taking place in the coming days.
Catholics, along with evangelicals and other faith leaders that include Islamic clerics, have sent their own letter to each lawmaker saying that if passed, the bill will impede religious freedom in the state. The letter contained 1,700 signatures from faith leaders opposing the bill.
However, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, said it is a matter of "when, not if," the bill will be voted on and passed. "This is never going to be an easy one, but its only going to get easier," she told reporters.
But Bigger disagrees. "If all the votes were there they would have voted on the gay marriage bill yesterday," he said. "I think it's going to be tougher to pass then the Democrats are letting on, even with President Obama's support."
The Christian Post attempted to reach Chairman Brady for his comment but a message was not returned prior to publication.