Opinion: Biggert Has a Gay Marriage Quandry - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Biggert Has a Gay Marriage Quandry



    Rep. Judy Biggert says she’s “close” to supporting gay marriage, but is not yet ready to take that step -- which may leave a pro-gay marriage Super PAC that donated $500,000 to her campaign feeling like it wasted money on her.

    American Unity PAC, which was founded by Republican hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer of Elliott Management Corporation, is backing eight Republicans in this year’s election. Biggert has a record as a pro-gay Republican. On this year’s Human Rights Campaign scorecard, she received a 70 -- the only Illinois Republican other than Bob Dold to score higher than 0, and better than Democrats Dan Lipinski and Jerry Costello. Biggest supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and voted to extend spousal benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. Biggert has also been endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican group.

    But in a press conference after a Chicago Tonight debate with opponent Bill Foster, Biggert said she’s not ready to support gay marriage -- and placed it in the same category as bigamy and polygamy.

    “I think that the country is close to this,” Biggert said. “Let’s wait and see what the courts have to say. It is a state issue. We don’t have polygamy and bigamy and all of these things in the federal government. It’s the states that take care of that, and I’ve worked in this realm with the estate planning.”

    However, Biggert says her personal history as a woman lawyer makes her sensitive to discrimination.

    “I’ve talked to the human rights and the Log Cabin Republicans, they support me, so I work with everyone. I was discriminated against when I went to law school. I was told I was taking the place of someone who belonged there -- a man -- and from that point, I don’t want to see discrimination against anyone.”

    Foster has come out in favor of marriage equality, after opposing it when he served in Congress from 2008 to 2010. Here’s what he said to the Tribune about Biggert’s position:

    “She has not yet evolved. So, she's crawling out of the swamp or something,” said Foster, a scientist, after the debate. Asked if he, too, had evolved on the issue, Foster replied, “I'm all dry, fluffed off and happy to be a hominid.”

    UPDATE: Biggert released this statement on Friday:

    “As like many Americans, the Congresswoman grapples with the idea of marriage for same-sex couples. The point she was making in the debate is that states – not the federal government – give out marriage licenses and make the determination about parameters for marriage, like they do for example in terms of age. The reference to polygamy and bigamy were in that context and she certainly did not mean to make a comparison between that and loving same-sex couples. She remains committed to the LGBT community and opposes efforts to write discrimination into the Constitution to take rights away from people.”


    This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.