SPRINGFIELD — In January, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady put his support behind a push to legalize gay marriage in Illinois, sparking a revolt among some members of this party.
On Thursday, the Illinois Senate voted 34-21 in favor of a gay marriage law. Just one Republican — state Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington — voted “yes.”
Brady, who survived an attempt to oust him for his views on the issue, said he was glad the proposal is now moving on to the House.
“I give Jason a lot of credit. He represents a new generation of leaders in the party,” Brady said.
Barickman, a 37-year-old attorney who joined the Senate in January after beating state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, last year, said he decided to vote “yes” after helping draft an amendment to the legislation that is designed to protect churches from reprisals if Illinois becomes the 10th state in the nation to allow gays to marry.
“It’s a vote that I understand that some have varying opinions on, but I feel that I voted in the correct way,” Barickman said. “The language in the amendment preserves those religious liberties that are so important to so many people.”
Brady’s backing of gay marriage and Barickman’s vote come as a new poll shows public attitudes changing about gay marriage.
In a survey of 600 registered voters in Illinois conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, 45.5 percent of the respondents said gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry.
That’s up from a similar poll in 2010, when 33.6 percent of the respondents favored gay marriage.
“People are moving their support for civil unions to support for full marriage,” said Charles Leonard, a visiting professor at the institute and the director of the poll taken Jan. 27 to Feb. 8.
Barickman’s “yes” vote wasn’t the first time someone representing the generally Republican-leaning region voted in favor of gay rights. Before becoming state treasurer in 2010, Dan Rutherford, then a state senator, was the lone Republican to vote “yes” to legalize civil unions.
Barickman didn’t talk to Rutherford about the vote, but said, “The district I represent has a history of supporting those who are willing to do the right thing.”
Other GOP lawmakers said Brady’s support for gay marriage played no role in determining their positions.
“I think that most of us on this side had long forgotten what Pat Brady said,” state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said. “That’s not to insult Pat Brady. It’s just that the Republican senators are making these decisions on behalf of their constituents and according to their consciences without regard to whatever Pat Brady has to say.”