By: Caitlin Brown
Last week, Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner released a new campaign ad against his election opponent JB Pritzker. In a move that really shouldn’t surprise anyone in these politically-polarized times, Rauner, despite his personal support of gay marriage, took aim against Pritzker through a depiction of his “unholy union” with Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. In the ad, Pritzker and Madigan stand before an altar in a church ceremony as an officiator introduces the couple’s vows:
“Repeat after me: I, Mike Madigan, take you, JB Pritzker, as my unlawful partner in destruction: to raise property taxes, corrupt government, and bankrupt Illinois’ future.”
The ad ends with the official declaration, “By the power vested in me, I now pronounce Illinois f—–.”
A little dramatic, no?
While the ad, as some have pointed out, does not overtly play into negative stereotypes about male homosexuality–think high-pitched voices, effeminate hand gestures, etc.–Rauner’s choice of medium is questionable. Although Rauner has denied any attempt of attacking the institution of same-sex marriage (he claims that the ad is solely about corruption), the depiction he chose for his criticism of Pritzker seems tactless at best, and intentional at worst. For, while Rauner may not take issue with equal marriage, his ad is sure to curry favor with those who do. In that sense, Rauner’s ad, which does nothing to espouse his “true” views, should be viewed as offensive not only to the gay community, but to his potential voters as well.
In terms of his support for equal rights, Rauner seems moored to the political tides. In March of 2015, Rauner was applauded for holding a meeting with LGBT community leaders to discuss anti-discrimination laws and new programs that could help provide more equal treatment for these underrepresented Illinoisans. And, to his credit, Rauner did make good on some of these promises. However, as time progressed and equal rights lost bipartisan support, Rauner began to sing a different tune. In August of this year, he vetoed legislation that could have bolstered the anti-discriminatory protections for the LGBT community in Illinois workplaces. In May, Rauner was criticized for failing to take a stance on the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois. And now, Rauner is facing backlash from the same community that applauded his efforts three years ago. On October 23rd, Equality Illinois, the group that commended Rauner’s 2015 actions, released a press release deploring the ad. “As someone who has officiated same sex marriages, Gov Rauner could serve as a model of inclusivity and use his campaign to vigorously promote full acceptance of LGBTQ Illinoisans,” the release states. “Instead, he chooses to raise the specter of gay marriage to turnout the most extreme elements of his base. We recognize a dog whistle when we hear one.”