Officials from the LGBTQ+-rights advocacy organization Equality Illinoisalong with LGBTQ+ legislators and community membersweighed in on the Illinois State Supreme Court race, warning at an Oct. 20 press conference against the election of two Republicans: former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who is running for the 2nd District Court seat; and current Supreme Court Judge Michael Burke, who is running for the 3rd District.
Were Curran and Burke to be elected, the speakers maintained, the balance of power could dangerously shift the court toward right-wing elements for years to come.
The press conference took place at Center on Halsted.
Reproductive-rights advocates have already been sounding the alarm on Curran's and Burke's possible elections. Lake County Judge Elizabeth Rochford and Appellate Judge Mary Kay O'Brien are opposing Curran and Burke, respectively.
Although Burke is already sitting on the court, he does not have a retention seat (in which case he would only be running to "retain" his seat and not in a direct contest against another candidate); he was appointed to his post in 2020.
Should Curran and Burke both be elected, the power shift would endanger numerous hard-won rights for LGBTQ+ plus Illinoisans, said Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson.
Johnson called Curran and Burke "Clarence Thomas acolytes," and reminded the audience that his organization did not normally speak out on judicial elections, but the urgency of these particular elections make for a different situation.
Should LGBTQ+ families have to legally defend their rights to marry, adopt or visit a spouse in the hospital, he said, the state supreme court could legally rescind those rights.
Johnson said he "couldn't imagine all the horrors" to possibly be visited upon LGBTQ+ if Curran and Burke both won seats, adding, "Keep Mark Curran and Michael Burke far from the seats of power."
Activists and married couple Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos, who were long key players in the fight for marriage equality in the state, said that new challenges to LGBTQ+ rights threaten the stability of their family. Volpe recalled that years ago, she was once denied access to her sick child's hospital bedside.
"We already fought this fight, and we don't want to go back," she added.
Equality Illinois Deputy Director Mony Ruiz-Velasco said that Illinoisans "have come so far" in the advancement of their rights, reminding LGBTQ+ community members and their allies to "vote all the way to the bottom of their ballot.
Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy and state Sen. Mike Simmons also attended the Oct. 20 meeting.