Kirk on Indiana law: 'We should not enshrine bigotry'

  • Thousands of opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, gather Saturday on the lawn of the Indiana State House.

    Thousands of opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, gather Saturday on the lawn of the Indiana State House. Associated Press

  • U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk

      U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Updated 4/3/2015 5:53 AM

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park took aim at fellow Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence over the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"We should not enshrine bigotry under the cover of religion. It's not just bad practice -- it's un-American," Kirk said in a statement.


Indiana lawmakers and Pence tried to tamp down furor over the law by approving a new measure Thursday prohibiting businesses from using the law in court as a defense for discrimination.

Kirk's statement comes a few days after his 2016 re-election race began in earnest when a first Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, officially emerged.

This isn't the first time Kirk has spoken out on gay issues. He backed same-sex marriage. And in 2013, when some top Illinois Republicans were trying to oust then-chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles because he'd lobbied for same-sex marriage, Kirk came to his defense on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."

"Actually, I didn't want the Republican Party to be run by the top anti-gay bigot in the state," Kirk said.

Meanwhile ...

Conservative radio talk show host and former congressman Joe Walsh says he'll "make a final decision very soon" about whether to run against Kirk in the 2016 Republican primary.

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Walsh spoke on his WIND-560 radio show this week in support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the show sent a producer to Indiana as controversy about the law continued.

Walsh talked about running for U.S. Senate two years ago but didn't go for it. Of a possible race against Kirk, he said, "I'm serious and I'm close to a decision."

Indiana's law vs. Illinois':

One key difference between Illinois' law and Indiana's first version, experts say, is that Illinois has a separate 2005 law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and other matters on the basis of sexual orientation.

Illinois' religious freedom law, passed in 1998, says government should not "substantially burden the exercise of religion without compelling justification."


In the money

Candidates' first-quarter fundraising wrapped up this week, and Crain's reports Kirk will show a three-month total of more than $1 million.

Looking ahead

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, visited the Daily Herald editorial board this week now that state lawmakers' spring session is about half over.

When lawmakers left Springfield last week, it was after finishing a budget fix that gave Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner the ability to plug holes in some programs at the expense of others. All Republican lawmakers backed the plan and many suburban Democrats didn't, but, overall, enough people approved to send it to Rauner.

Now, as lawmakers get ready to consider a Rauner budget proposal that includes cuts to social service agencies and to municipal revenue, did last week provide a glimpse of the way forward?

"I don't think it'll be that neat and tidy," Murphy said. "Because I think the pathway forward involves a lot of different pieces and moving parts."

All not in

While this week included a lot of campaign announcements, Murphy said he's not jumping into the race for the 8th Congressional District, the seat being vacated by Duckworth as she runs for Senate.

Murphy lives just outside the district, in the one represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, and he says he's not considered a 2016 run for Congress in any serious way.

Tuesday's coverage

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