Bid to soften opposition to same-sex marriage divides state GOP

 
 
Updated 5/20/2016 7:43 PM

A recommended change to soften the Illinois Republican Party's opposition to same-sex marriage has rankled some conservative members of the party and could face a vote to reject the move Saturday.

The Illinois convention in Peoria this week is supposed to set the party's principles for the upcoming election and pick a slate of statewide delegates to the national convention in Cleveland this summer.

 

The split over marriage comes as Gov. Bruce Rauner works to unify the state party behind his agenda and against Democrats who had dominated state politics for years.

The platform committee voted on Friday to recommend the new same-sex marriage plank to the full group of Republican delegates, who could vote on it Saturday. The party's 2012 platform supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It has since been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Today's action by a narrow majority of the platform committee to redefine marriage followed a flawed, closed-door process that excluded and marginalized the deeply held beliefs of a majority of Illinois Republicans," state Rep. Peter Breen, a Lombard Republican, said.

The committee included former GOP party chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles, who was pressured to resign the leadership in 2013 when he split with the platform to back same-sex marriage.

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He said after Friday's vote that even if the full party rejects the change, the committee vote is a step in the right direction.

In a separate event nearby, Rauner declined to comment specifically on the change, saying he'd leave it up to the delegates to decide.

"I'm not going to weigh in on particular platform issues," Rauner said. "That's what the delegates' role is to do."

The committee meeting was closed to reporters, and the official language of the change wasn't made available by the party.

The platform meeting was held in a crowded room outside of which some convention delegates were wearing buttons saying "One Mom One Dad."

In the days before the vote, a selection of Illinois House lawmakers sent party leaders a letter saying any changes to the platform should be accompanied by a full discussion on the convention's floor instead of in secret.

"That's the Chicago Democrat Way, and has become the Illinois Democrat Way. We reject those corrupt practices," the letter reads. "But without a full, open, and deliberative process, we fear that the Illinois Republican Platform Committee may open itself to similar accusations."

Rauner and some other top Republicans are set to address the convention Saturday. GOP presumptive nominee for president Donald Trump won the Illinois primary, so statewide delegates picked Saturday are bound to vote for him in Cleveland on the first ballot.

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