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What Pat Brady's resignation in Illinois means for gay marriage and the GOP
The state's outgoing GOP chair faced a backlash for supporting a bill to legalize same-sex marriage
Brady announced his resignation in a letter to the state party's central committee.
Brady announced his resignation in a letter to the state party's central committee. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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n a widely expected move, embattled Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady resigned on Tuesday. Brady said he wanted to spend more time with his family as his wife fights cancer, but social conservatives have been calling for Brady's head for months. They're angry over his support for a gay marriage bill floated in the state legislature this year — the latest in a series of similar measures taken up across the country. The GOP's drubbing in the November election, which gave Illinois Democrats veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate, didn't help.

No matter how Brady's departure is spun, the takeaway is that the Illinois GOP is doubling down on its opposition to gay marriage. Though "it's pretty clear that support for marriage equality is what forced [Brady] out of office," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. After he came out for the marriage bill, 50 conservatives called for his resignation at a meeting in April. "On some level, I suppose one can understand that a political party would want it's leader to reflect the positions that the party takes, or at least not to openly disagree with part of the party's platform," says Mataconis. Still, "this is just another sign that the GOP remains behind the times" on marriage equality. It's likely to become the law of the land in Illinois this year, so the GOP is needlessly damaging itself with this "pointless war," he adds.

But does this infighting have national implications? Erick Erickson at RedState argued nearly two months ago that Brady had to go, but that the reason was his failure to raise money and otherwise run things well — not his stand on one hot-button issue. "Brady's resignation marks the latest trouble for a political party that had held Illinois' governorship for nearly a quarter century until then-Gov. George Ryan's tenure as secretary of state led to indictment and imprisonment," says Rick Pearson at the Chicago Tribune. Brady argued, however, that the big losses in November signaled that the GOP needed to be more inclusive because it couldn't hope to attract new voters by coming off "as mean-spirited or angry or too dogmatic."

This is just another piece of "evidence that genuine reform is not in the cards" for the GOP on gay rights, says Jamelle Bouie at The Washington Post. This didn't happen in a vacuum. While Illinois Republicans were going after Brady, members of the party have been rising to oppose extending automatic green card privileges to the partners of LGBT Americans, Bouie says:

In other words, there hasn't actually been a Republican shift on gay rights. Instead, Republicans have just been smarter about vocalizing their opposition to marriage equality and other anti-discrimination laws. Yes, a plurality of people who self-identify as Republican support same-sex marriage — 49 percent, according to a March survey from the Pew Research Center — but this doesn't translate to support among the pool of Republican voters.

Remember, the GOP is strongest among white evangelicals, white Southerners, and older people. These are also the groups most likely to oppose same-sex marriage, and in the case of the latter, one of the groups most likely to vote. [Washington Post]

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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