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As organizers prepare for the Chicago Pride Parade, Art Johnston, Co-Founder of Equality Illinois, speaks Thursday about Bruce Rauner's record of opposition to marriage equality. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times

Trouble in Boystown for Bruce Rauner

Marriage equality supporters protested in front of a giant Bruce Rauner banner on Halsted Street on Thursday, just days before thousands will take the streets to celebrate the Chicago Pride Parade.

The group of elected officials and LGBT supporters wore t-shirts with a red slash over Rauner’s name. And they stood in front of the large banner featuring the gubernatorial candidate’s face and the words, “Bruce Rauner on marriage equality: ‘If I were governor, I would veto it.’”

Calling the gubernatorial candidate “an enemy of equality,” Art Johnston of Equality Illinois, told reporters that Rauner poses a threat to those who just recently gained marriage equality in Illinois.



“Over and over again, he has made it clear that he opposes the freedom to marry. Again and again, this candidate has chosen to side with bigotry and intolerance,” Johnston said. “Rauner thinks your ability to protect your loved ones through the security of marriage should be put on the ballot as a referendum.”

Johnston said he hopes the parade serves as a way to educate the LGBT community about Rauner’s stance on gay marriage, as well as statements he has made about the bill. Rauner last year told voters he believed marriage equality should be subject to referendum. And after the bill was approved, he said he would veto the bill if he were governor.

Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos have three children together. They were married on Feb. 21 by Cook County Clerk David Orr after 23 years together.

“We are here today first and foremost to protect our children,” Volpe said. “It needs to be said that this candidate does not support marriage equality in Illinois. He does not support families like ours... He is sending a message that he thinks my family isn’t worthy of these legal protections. How would he feel if I vetoed his family? How are my children any different than his?”

State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the chief sponsor of the marriage bill, said he fears a Rauner win would mean the LGBT community “would begin to walk backward.”

“We’re seeing equality and equal treatment under the law sweep the country and Illinois needs to protect the freedom that we have struggled so hard for,” Harris said.

Former state GOP Chairman Pat Brady, a staunch Rauner supporter, said the banner’s veto statement was “taken out of context.” He called Rauner a social moderate and a fiscal conservative who has no “social agenda.”

“He has said all along he was for a referendum, meaning the people should decide the issue. But there are bigger issues. This issue has been decided. Bruce Rauner is not an enemy of this issue. He’s comfortable with it. Nothing’s going to change. A year from now marriage equality is probably going to be federal law. It’s a non-issue,” Brady said.

Brady said he would attend the parade. A Rauner spokesman confirmed the gubernatorial candidate will not attend the parade due to a scheduling conflict.