Due to political pressure by a liberal Illinois congressman, Fran Eaton's "Always Right" column will no longer appear in the 'Southtown Star,' but will be exclusively published here on Illinois Review.
This week, the issue of gay politics is in the news as one likely candidate for governor - State Treasurer Dan Rutherford - reportedly made an off-the-cuff comment in Tampa in support of anti-Republican Equality Illinois picking up the bar tab for the Illinois Delegation. The State Treasurer is quoted as saying that those who don’t like it “can go someplace else to drink.”
That was an eyebrow-raiser for conservative Republicans back home who are concerned about preserving traditional marriage in Illinois.
Then Wednesday night, a second potential 2014 gubernatorial candidate - Congressman Aaron Schock - told PBS he is opposed to same sex marriage. In response Gay blogger John Aravois expressed his thoughts about Schock, writing:
“GOP Rep. from IL Aaron Schock said last night on local PBS in Chicago that he's opposed to gay marriage. I think it's finally time we had an honest and open discussion about what this guy's sexual orientation really is. Because if he wants to play the anti-gay card, then he makes his own sexual orientation an issue. He needs to directly answer and put to rest all the talk about him being gay.”
Another eyebrow-raiser. And perhaps the signal that it is time to address a rather difficult topic.
So, let's start with the obvious. Both Rutherford and Schock are not married. Rutherford is 57 years old and Schock is 31. Both have dedicated their adult professional lives to public service.
Rutherford worked for ServiceMaster before becoming a state representative, then a state senator, and now the state treasurer. He's been involved in politics statewide for decades, and has actively promoted Republican candidates and local organizations. While in the legislature, his voting record was above average on conservative issues with a lifetime average rating of 70 according to the staunchly conservative URF legislative scorecard.
However, Rutherford was the sole Republican vote in favor of adding "sexual orientation" to the state's non-discrimination statute. The vote caused a furor, and rumors about Rutherford's sexuality really began to fly.
That's when I interviewed Rutherford and when I asked him what he referred to as "The Question." He had heard the same rumors over the years and was eager to answer it publicly. Indeed, Rutherford told me directly, "No, I am not gay."
Pretty definitive and pretty gutsy, I thought. We published the column on Illinois Review in December of 2005 and waited for the fallout. Indeed, it came -- from other conservatives angry that Illinois Review had published the quote and – they believed – given Rutherford “cover”. "He's lying," and "Why did you do that?" were the top two comments.
We'll come back to that shortly.
The other legislator whose sexuality has been questioned is Aaron Schock. Schock was first elected to the Peoria school board when he was 19. At age 21, he challenged an incumbent Democrat state rep and knocked her off in a hard-fought race. At age 27, he ran and won a tough primary race in his first bid for Congress, when Ray LaHood stepped down.
Schock's a respected, hard-working legislator and as the youngest member in Congress, his future in politics appears to be limitless.
He's handsome, articulate and photogenic. He's become a rock star on Capitol Hill and he's reaching out to his generation with Republican ideals.
I've been asked numerous times whether Schock is gay - as if I had proof one way or another. "From discussions I've had with those closest to Schock, he is not," I've answered time and time again.
I've also explained that Schock experienced a soul-searching time when his parents divorced. He sought pastoral counsel and subsequently made a public declaration of his faith in Jesus at a very conservative church in Peoria. That all happened while he was serving as an Illinois House member.
Members of his church confirm that he attends church, and those closest to Schock tell me he's in touch with his pastor. Indeed, Rep. Schock personally confirmed that to me a few years ago.
But things can change, especially when one is in DC, where loose morals are the norm. In Schock's case, numerous gay bloggers have written publicly that they "wish" he were gay. In other words, gays themselves are unsure of Schock's sexual orientation.
Of course, because of the derision received from conservatives that had encouraged me to ask Rutherford "The Question," and then skinned me alive for publishing his reply, I’ve chosen not to ask Schock anything about it.
As mentioned previously, this whole topic is difficult – to say the least. And certainly disturbing.
The questions are many. How can anyone really know what someone does behind closed doors? How does anyone know anyone's particular sexual orientation? Can that orientation change if one pursues an immoral lifestyle? Is it any less wrong to be promiscuous with the opposite sex? Isn’t that perhaps the real question?
Voters do have the right to know about personal issues that raise questions about a candidate's integrity and moral standards. In Illinois, not focusing enough on character and moral standards has left us with the embarrassment of two governors in jail. Neither were accused of sexual improprieties - but their character certainly determined their fate, and has seriously endangered the state's fiscal and polticial condition. So, indeed, character matters.
And as the gay community pushes forward with their radical social agenda that undermines the traditional family and the foundation of a free society, we have a right to know our gubernatorial candidates' views on issues they will confront in office.
So, do we have a right to know about a candidate’s personal and public position on moral issues? The answer is “yes”. But I contend it's less about what a candidate does in their bedroom and more about what the condition of his or her heart, soul and mind is.
Do they respect and guide their lives according to time-solidified scriptural, moral principles? That alone is what will determine the direction they lead their own lives, their homes, and their state.
Perhaps that's "The Question" we all need to ask ourselves before we ask them the other.