Illinois state treasurer comes out in support of marriage

by Joseph Erbentraut

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 15, 2009

Illinois State Treasurer and U.S. Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias surprised voters last week when he announced an extensive LGBT rights platform that included everything from his support for legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

In announcing his platform, Giannoulias, one of four major Democrat candidates for the seat currently occupied by Sen. Roland Burris, became Illinois' first major statewide candidate to openly approve of nuptials for same-sex couples. The Chicago native's unprecedented position on marriage stands in contrast to Republican challenger Congressman Mark Kirk.

"I believe that all Americans should have the same freedoms and share the same responsibilities, including the freedom to marry and the responsibilities that come with it," Giannoulias told EDGE. "Allowing committed gay and lesbian couples the same rights as heterosexual couples is the fair and right thing to do. It's about equality, individual liberties and protections, which reflect the fundamental values that this country was founded on."

In addition to his support of the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, Giannoulias, 33, added he will advocate for the elimination of DADT, support the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act and also work to repeal the ban on travelers with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.

"I think I've made my positions on GLBT issues quite clear and I expect voters to hold me accountable for them."

Other Democrat challengers have not addressed their stances on LGBT issues as publicly, though the Web site of openly gay candidate Jacob Meister was recently updated to express support for marriage for gays and lesbians, domestic partner benefits and other pro-LGBT legislation.

"This is something I believe in," Giannoulias said. "These aren't special rights, they are equal rights. Loving, same-sex couples deserve to be treated no differently in the eyes of the law than opposite-sex couples. It's not fair to deny some long-term, committed couples and their families the protections that others enjoy."

Giannoulias, a long-time supporter of the LGBT community, added he did not fear alienating more moderate or conservative voters with his positions on marriage and other issues. He said he feels they "impact our society as a whole." Giannoulias further concluded societal attitudes toward gay people are gradually changing. And he issued a challenge to any progressive voters skeptical of whether action would accompany his campaign promises.

"I think I've made my positions on GLBT issues quite clear and I expect voters to hold me accountable for them," Giannoulias shared. "I will guarantee that I will make my voice heard in Washington on these issues and work diligently to advance my platform."

Recent independent polling find Giannoulias, who has already received most major endorsements from leading Democrat organizations in the state, narrowly trails Kirk, who is expected to easily win the Republican nomination for the seat. Other challengers on the Democrat side include Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson and former city inspector general David Hoffman.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.

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