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Column

Fallout from last week's gay marriage vote

Perhaps the biggest loser in the Nov. 5 historic passage of a gay marriage bill in Springfield was the National Organization for Marriage.

The group, based in Washington, D.C., has been at the forefront of attempts to stop gay marriage in states throughout the country. A Maine investigation uncovered alleged internal NOM documents about the group’s strategy that included this passage:

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies.”

The organization tried all that in Illinois, spending tens of thousands of dollars on politically connected consultants and robocalls into black districts in the spring, summer and right up until the day of the vote, and holding media-friendly events in the black community. The bill wasn’t called for a vote last spring mainly because black House members were overwhelmed by fervent local opposition.

In the end, NOM lost badly. Fourteen of 20 Democratic members of the House Black Caucus voted “Yes” on the gay marriage bill, while just four voted “No” (Monique Davis, Mary Flowers, Eddie Lee Jackson and Chuck Jefferson) and two voted “Present” (Rita Mayfield and Derrick Smith).

The big talk last week in the U.S. Congress was about a bill to prohibit employment discrimination against gay people. Illinois has had that law on its books for years. Despite much screaming by opponents that the end of the word was surely near, everybody just accepted the law and moved on without incident.

But people don’t always move on. Social conservatives could try to stir up a backlash by demanding that the Republican candidates pledge to repeal the marriage measure. Three of the four candidates are on record opposing gay marriage. The fourth, Bruce Rauner, said he would only sign a gay marriage bill into law if the public had first voted to approve it via a nonbinding referendum.

State Rep. Tom Cross, a Republican candidate for state treasurer, is undoubtedly hoping that the issue fades quickly, at least in the runup to the spring primary. Cross voted “Yes,” even though a spokesman had recently told the Sun-Times that he opposed the bill.

The immediate fear among Cross’ allies is that his gay marriage vote could spark more interest among, and money from the far right to defeat him.

Cross clearly took the long view, and that could come with significant benefits, including campaign contributions from gay marriage supporters and the ability to paint himself as a moderate and “modern” Republican in the general election.

• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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