State Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. of Mundelein said he's received "overwhelming support" from his district since announcing last week that he intends to support a bill to allow gay marriage in Illinois.
That support, however, likely wasn't coming from the more than 100 protesters outside his local district office Saturday afternoon.
Mundelein resident Elise Bouc said she organized the protest at 700 N. Lake St. to show Sullivan "in a very visual way that the citizens of his district are overwhelmingly opposed to the same-gender marriage bill that is being considered in Springfield."
Sullivan, who is chairman of the House Republican campaign organization, said his decision to back same-sex marriage was arrived at after several "heartfelt conversations" with his family.
Sullivan said his mother-in-law has been in a same-sex relationship and that he also has a gay uncle.
"It's the right thing to do, and I hope it helps people better understand same-sex couples," Sullivan said Saturday, while enjoying hot dogs with his children. "Social justice initiatives take place when society becomes familiar with the issue. I think that's what is happening in Illinois and across the country."
Bouc and several attendees, however, say they feel misled because the 11-year House veteran previously was elected for his "traditional marriage beliefs." Bouc said Sullivan should be voting to represent the values of his entire district, not his family.
Sullivan was unopposed in both his March 2012 primary and November 2012 election.
"He never would have been voted into office if he had been forthcoming with this stance prior to the election. It would have been a vote-breaker," Bouc said.
Kelley Smith, a self-described conservative Republican from Long Grove, agreed.
"(Sullivan) didn't have to go into detail on this issue because no one challenged him. He just floated on by," Smith said. "There was some discussion among people in the group today that maybe we need a primary challenge for him next year."
Sullivan, though invited, did not attend the protest, saying he didn't want to "further fan the flames."
"They certainly have every right to protest what they believe. That's why we have the First Amendment, right to protest and free speech," Sullivan said. "I respect their rights just as I wish they would respect rights of same-sex couples to marry."
The issue has divided Republican leadership as a bill to legalize same-sex marriage awaits a vote in the Illinois House. The Senate approved same-sex marriage legislation on Valentine's Day. Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady of St. Charles has faced possible ouster over his support in a charge largely led by state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican. Brady announced Saturday he will not seek re-election as party chair.
Republican legislators have largely opposed same-sex marriage, so GOP supporters who oppose the party platform tend to grab headlines. But the Illinois House's months of delay on the issue has been largely because the Democrats who control the chamber aren't united on the issue, either.