CHICAGO - On the day same-sex marriage became legal throughout Illinois, dozens of LGBT activists criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner for what they believe is his opposition to marriage redefinition.
In an open letter (below), the signers wrote that they "know the real Bruce Rauner," and argue that if the socially moderate Rauner is elected governor he will work to "block new [gay] legislation and erode the existing laws" protecting same-sex marriage.
"LGBT couples and their families will not be welcome in Bruce Rauner's Illinois," the letter concludes.
In November 2013, Rauner told an audience in Quincy that he would have preferred the issue of same-sex marriage be decided by the people of Illinois through a referendum.
Signatories of the letter include: Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov, Equality Illinois Founder Art Johnston, Democrat State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Democrat State Rep. Ann Williams, and Lambda Legal Midwest Regional Director Jim Bennett.
Letter, June 1, 2014:
Throughout the campaign for marriage equality, we heard the stories of LGBT couples across Illinois — couples from all walks of life, couples with children, couples who had been together for decades. Those couples wanted to be able to care for and protect their families through marriage.
A robust debate occurred last year over whether all Illinois couples and families should be treated equally and with dignity under the law. 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.
We also remember those public figures, like Bruce Rauner, who chose the side of bigotry and intolerance.
Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor, claims to be a social moderate. In public and in the media, he claims not to "have a social agenda" and that "it doesn't matter" how he feels about marriage equality.
Rauner can't have it both ways. A real leader takes a stand. But we now know how he really feels. Last year at a Tea Party gathering in Quincy, he had this to say about marriage equality: "They haven't approved it in a referendum, so if I were governor I would veto."
Rauner opposes the freedom to marry. If he had been Governor, the many couples across Illinois who today are celebrating new families would still be relegated to a second-class legal status. Bruce Rauner, as he said in Quincy, has no problem with that.
We know the real Bruce Rauner. His administration would very likely be working behind-the-scenes to block new legislation and erode the existing laws protecting our families.
Just look at the GOP "top of the ticket" and the elected officials Rauner surrounds himself with, like running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis, both of who strongly oppose the freedom to marry, LGBT family adoption rights and other legal protections. Moreover, he has given tens of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBT candidates throughout our state.
The record is clear: LGBT couples and their families will not be welcome in Bruce Rauner's Illinois. All of us, friends and family alike, must remember who really stands with the LGBT community this November.
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO, Equality Illinois
Art Johnston, Founder of Equality Illinois
Jim Bennett, Midwest Regional Director, Lambda Legal
Jeremy Gottschalk, Chair, Equality Illinois PAC
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy
State Rep. Ann Williams
John Kohlhepp, Campaign Manager, Illinois Unites for Marriage
David Munar, President & CEO, Howard Brown Health Center
Anthony Martinez, Executive Director, Civil Rights Agenda
Alyx S. Pattison, Candidate, Second Ward Alderman
Willard Dumas III
Jennifer and Leslie Henry