In a statement consistent with his past comments but running contrary to his longstanding support of LGBTs, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford has stated that he is not backing same-sex marriage in Illinois.
His comments come just two days after pro-gay lawmakers reintroduced legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage on Jan. 9.
Rutherford has earned a good deal of respect among many LGBTs over the years. In 2010, he was the only GOP senator to vote in favor of civil unions.
"As senator, Dan Rutherford has been crucial on a number of our issues," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.
Rutherford told Windy City Times that he backed a number of LGBT issues when in the General Assembly but that his stance on same-sex marriage has not changed.
"As I see the marriage, I'm just not there," he said. "I see a difference from the religious standpoint of it, and so that is something that I have not endorsed. But again, I'm very supportive of what I think are fair issues."
Rutherford expressed similar views in October when he participated in a small Equality Illinois forum with marriage bill sponsor Rep. Greg Harris.
Rutherford stated that his party, "has not been real good at appreciating and understanding diversity." But he declined to state if his views might evolve on the issue of marriage.
Pressed again on whether his stance could change, Rutherford was not closed off to the conversation.
"I think the fair thing for me to say is I am always receptive to discussion," he said. "I am always going to look as things may change or evolve to evaluate at the time. So, I'm absolutely, you know, let me see what the final language [of the bill] is."
Rutherford's statements come shortly after Illinois Republican Chair Pat Brady announced his support for the bill. Brady has taken heat from his party and religious groups over that announcement.
Rutherford's stance could be particularly important down the line. His name has been floated as a possible 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate.
Cherkasov said Equality Illinois has seen a growing number of Republicans evolve on equal marriage over the years and that the organization will continue discussions with Rutherford.
"Sometimes it just takes longer for some than for others," he said.