"I didn't even know" there was a gay pride parade, Brady told reporters. "This has been on our calendar a long time. The Swedish parade has got a long history and tradition and so we're honored to be invited to be part of this.”
If you say so. But Brady didn’t show up at Chicago’s biggest Swedish event, the Andersonville Midsommarfest. He might not have felt welcome there. Andersonville, despite its Swedish heritage, is now one of Chicago’s gayest, lesbianest neighborhoods, home to the Man’s Country bathhouse, the Women and Children First Bookstore, and a Cheetah gym.
In Illinois, the Republican Party has been courting the gay vote for over a decade. The last Republican nominee for governor, Judy Baar Topinka, marched in the 2006 Chicago Gay Pride Parade. The brassy, chain-smoking Topinka had serious gay icon potential. The last Republican governor, George Ryan, sponsored a float in the parade, and got a big boost from the gay community when his Democratic opponent, Glenn Poshard, refused to march or endorse a gay rights law.
But now the Illinois Republican Party seems to be going backwards on gay rights. GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk, as Ward Room has pointed out a few times, doesn't have the support of the gay community. And Brady? Brady has proposed amending the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, or even civil unions.
But he doesn’t have to go to a gay neighborhood to get a lesson on tolerance. He could have gotten it from the Swedes.
Famously libertine Sweden was the first country to declassify homosexuality as an illness. And in 2009, the Swedes legalized gay marriage. Maybe, by marching in a parade celebrating Swedish heritage and Swedish values, Brady was endorsing tolerance of homosexuality.
If he thought he was going to give off that impression, he probably would've forgotten there was a Swedish Days parade at all on Sunday.