After much heated opposition to marriage equality in Illinois, U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis said Oct. 23 that his thinking about the matter has shifted.
Oberweis' remarks came in a debate against incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. Each candidate was asked whether they would support a federal marriage equality law.
"I think that's well-established," Oberweis replied. "The court has said that that's approved. I don't think there's any argument over it any longer, so at this point I would want to say 'yes.'"
When the questioner asked once more about his support, Oberweis said that he would prefer to see the matter determined by individual states, but added, "I think we're past that stage."
Durbin then reminded the audience that Oberweis announced his candidacy at an anti-gay marriage rally in Springfield, Ill., noting, "We now have 30 states that have marriage equality, including Illinois. I want to see us having all states reach that same conclusion."
Oberweis then disputed the circumstances surrounding his announcement. "Once again the Senator was very loose with facts when he said that I announced my candidacy at some rally. He obviously is not knowledgable about that and continues to throw those 'facts' out there."
He was then reminded that he opposed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act as a state senator.
"Yes I did," he said. "Again, I thought, as a state issuelook, I'm raised as a Catholic and I believe in traditional marriage, but I think we're past that. I believe that's the law. I support our law. I support our constitution."
Despite his protestation at the debate, Oberweis, a dairy magnate who is currently the state senator representing Sugar Grove, did indeed publicly announce his candidacy at an anti-gay marriage rally Oct. 23, 2013 in the capitol rotunda in Springfield. The event, sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute, was a response to the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality, which took place the day before.
"Several people have asked me today if I'm going to run for the U.S. Senate against Dick Durbin," Oberweis said at the time. "The shorter answer is, if we get enough petitions signed to file in time, I will be there as a candidate to retire him permanently."
Oberweis was in early 2013 one of many state GOP members calling for the ouster of former State Chairman Pat Brady because of Brady's support for marriage equality. Brady later stepped down from his post and went to work lobbying Republican lawmakers on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Oberweis campaign officials did not return a request for comment.