As the fight for marriage equality unfolds in Illinois, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is already pledging to campaign against state Republican senators and representatives who vote in favor of equality. Given that there are potentially seven states set to recognize marriage equality in 2013, it seems clear that NOM’s response was precipitated by the announcement of Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady that he supports marriage equality. It looks like the electoral proceedings are being deferred to later this spring, but Illinois Democrats are promising to push a pro-equality agenda.
In a solidly blue state like Illinois, NOM’s pledge to purge pro-equality GOPers is more or less the same as pledging to flip those seats over to Democrats, who, in all likelihood, will also be pro-equality. Even though Illinois Democrats killed a marriage equality bill in 2009, given the Democratic Party’s “new normal” on same-sex marriage, it’s hard—though admittedly not impossible—to imagine an anti-marriage equality Democrat winning a primary.
Even though there are plenty of southern Illinois counties where citizens live closer to Birmingham, Alabama than they do to Chicago, the fact remains that Illinois GOPers supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP primary by a twelve point spread. And it’s safe to say that the Republicans who would be voting in favor of a marriage bill are not of the Santorum variety.
Further, a solid plurality of Illinois citizens—47% according to Public Policy Polling—support the recognition of marriage equality. According to Springfield’s State Journal-Register, this is a thirteen-point jump up from two years ago. According to the paper, an overwhelming 76% supermajority supports civil unions as a minimum. Most telling, according to PPP, 58% of voters under the age of 45 support recognition of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. That the conservative Chicago Tribune has endorsed said freedom to marry is simply icing on the cake. I won't even mention the fact that prominent national Republicans like Newt Gingrich have publicly said that its time to move on to other issues.
At this point, it’s hard to say which Illinois GOP lawmakers will or will not support the bill, (we won’t really know until Democratic leaders bring it to a vote in the new session) but it seems unlikely any of them will be taking this “pledge” seriously. It should be clear to anybody paying attention that NOM leaders are running scared. After missing their fundraising goals for 2012 in a big way, it’s becoming rapidly clear that, like many of the candidates they support, all NOM has left are vapid pledges and empty threats and—most importantly—no new ideas.