Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn ascended into his position in 2009 while lieutenant governor following former Gov. Rod Blagojevich being removed, and is running for the seat in November. At this time, polls indicate that he is a few points behind his main opponent, the conservative Republican Bill Brady.
Quinn has been beset with issues from the start, and his association with Blagojevich still raises some questions about his role in that administration. In the last month, he lost two top staffers, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Michael Randle and chief of staff Jerry Stermer.
However, Quinn's place in the LGBTQ community is likely to be unchallenged. Brady has tried to repeal and restrict employment and housing protections for LGBTQs, and has also spoken out against civil unions, domestic partnership benefits and same-sex marriage.
In contrast, Quinn has been in favor of the civil-unions bill and received the endorsement of Equality Illinois Political Action Committee. He recently signed the Jason Flatt Act to prevent teen suicide at the Center on Halsted. While the legislation is aimed at all youth, Quinn's ceremonial signing at the Center signaled that he understood the particular issues faced by LGBTQ youth who, according to sources like the journal Pediatrics, are more prone to suicide than straight youth.
Windy City Times: You support "equal marital rights" [ as stated on Quinn's website ] and you're currently supporting a civil-unions bill.
Pat Quinn: I support the civil-unions bill and am working for its passage. The governor does have a great deal of influence [ in such matters ] . I think we have a good chance of passing it by this year.
WCT: Some gay leaders have called the civil-rights bill a stop-gap measure, as a way to eventually achieve gay marriage. Do you see civil unions existing alongside gay marriage?
Pat Quinn: The votes are there for civil unions; this is something that can be accomplished. My opponent, Bill Brady, is against both civil unions and gay marriage. I'm opposed to using constitutional amendments. This should be a matter of law.
WCT: Let's talk about funding for HIV/AIDS. There seems to always be a crisis around that. You recently ensured sufficient funding for the Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program. But as your own website notes, 2008 saw an "8 percent increase in the number of new diagnoses over the previous year." Rates of infection continue to rise, even over 30 years after the start of the epidemic. As governor, what would you do to institute a long-term set of solutions?
Pat Quinn: I have protected the funding, and have ensured a great deal of dollars to protect people by maintaining funding. HIV healthcare is very, very important. Prevention is very important as is providing life-saving medications. I would make sure funding is adequate. I'm running against someone who wants to reduce that funding. I believe in public health, educating people about dangerous measures.
WCT: Like many, you've supported hate crimes legislation. While no one can deny that hate crimes against LGBTQ people are a problem, many progressive LGBTQ organizations like the Audre Lorde Project have come out against the idea of enforcement-heavy bills that put more people in jail, as they see it. How do you think we could address this problem without resorting only to incarceration?
Pat Quinn: I think we need to prevent hate crimes in the first place, and education plays a role in that. As to how to go about that, I would work with the gay community.
I recently signed an anti-bullying measure. I don't want anyone to think it's okay to hurt anyone, and there's a problem with bullying in schools. We have to work on intercepting and stopping it before it starts, with an agenda of education and prevention.
WCT: I'm glad you mentioned that. The bill establishes a direct hotline between Chicago Public Schools [ CPS ] and the Chicago Police Department [ CPD ] . But some educators point out that raises issues, especially for LGBTQ and gender-non-conforming youth who often feel under threat by police. Can you give some specific examples of how communities might work together to resolve tensions without resorting first to enforcement via the CPD?
Pat Quinn: Punishment and enforcement should only be the last resort. We want to educate students about the importance of tolerance and institute a set of programs that help to dispel stereotypes. We need to make sure that people are treated as we would want to be treated.
I know the woman who is the head of anti-bullying in CPS, and she is a very creative person working with younger students to eliminate stereotypes.
WCT: Do you think the recent Blagojevich trial will prove harmful to your candidacy and that of other candidates? And do you have anything else you'd like to add for our readers?
Pat Quinn: No, I don't. I think that voters are looking at us as individuals.
My administration has a number of openly gay people working for it, including Brent Adams, secretary of the department of Financial and Professional Regulation [ the first openly HIV-positive cabinet-level official in Illinois history ] . They are among the best people I've got. I've got a good record on health care, and on working with the LGBT community; I've been in the gay pride parade since 1991. I've always been a great supporter of the gay community.
See www.quinnforillinois.com .