News Local/State

ACLU Hires Former Illinois GOP Chair To Lobby For Same-Sex Marriage


The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has hired former state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady to lobby for a same-sex marriage bill in Springfield, months after his own support of same-sex marriage sparked a controversy that led to his resignation.

The ACLU confirmed Tuesday that it has hired Next Generation Public Affairs, the lobbying and public relations firm Brady co-founded after he left his party job in May.

“I think the very core of the conservative movement, which I consider myself a part of, is application of equality under the law for all,” Brady said Tuesday in an interview with Illinois Public radio station, WBEZ in Chicago.

Brady will focus on lobbying House Republicans in hopes of getting the same-sex marriage bill passed during this fall’s veto session, he said. He will also tap the political donors he cultivated during his four years as party chairman to raise money for groups that support gay marriage, and for Republican lawmakers who may be hesitant to cast a yes vote, fearing a challenge in next year’s primary.

Brady’s hiring comes after the ACLU launched a $10 million national push in June, aimed at winning support for same-sex marriage from Republican lawmakers and voters in a handful of states, including Illinois.

Steve Schmidt, a GOP strategist who was formerly a top advisor to Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, is heading up the national effort.

Brady declined to say how much the ACLU is paying him.

He quit his unpaid party post May 6, following a months-long controversy sparked by his public support of same-sex marriage, a stance which contradicts the GOP platform. Brady rankled some party bosses on the State Central Committee when he announced his support for the bill without telling them first.

He survived an attempt to oust him in April, but there was a quiet agreement reached among party bosses that he would leave later on his own terms.

Despite the past controversy, Brady now said he has no problem working for the liberal ACLU, even if it means taking flak from social conservatives.

“Liberty, freedom and equality under the law are all things that Republicans and conservatives have believed in for a long, long time,” he said. “So I don’t have any qualms with that, and I really excited  to help work with them and get this done right in Illinois.”

Illinois’ same-sex marriage bill cleared the State Senate on Valentine’s Day, with Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) casting the lone GOP yes vote. A push to call the measure for a vote in the State House fizzled in the final hours of the spring session, after supporters backed off because they thought it might fail.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign the bill into law if it gets to his desk.

But getting a same-sex marriage bill through the Democrat-controlled State House may require Republican votes, as not all Democrats support it. The two GOP State Representatives who are publicly supporting the bill, Ron Sandack of suburban Downers Grove and Ed Sullivan Jr., of Mundelein, say there are a handful of Republicans who might be persuaded to vote yes.

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, has vowed to spend money to defeat Republican lawmakers who vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

But there are also plenty of deep-pocketed GOP donors ready to support those lawmakers in the March 18 primary, Brady said.

“There’s gonna be, I think, plenty of money to help those people,” he said.

Illinois’ political calendar has made the future of the same-sex marriage bill more difficult to predict.

The bill could be called for a vote when lawmakers head back to Springfield for their fall veto session in late October and early November.

But state lawmakers will not find out until Nov. 18 whether they will have challengers in March’s primary, which could make some lawmakers hesitant to cast a controversial vote before knowing whether there will be someone to use it against them in next year’s primary.