Democrats in Illinois are preparing to select their candidate for next year's race for Governor, and the primary election presents an important test in the fight for LGBT equality.
One candidate, Dan Hynes -- the long time and highly respected State Comptroller -- is strongly, proudly pro marriage equality, has a history of LGBT advocacy, and has made the elimination of all forms of anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination a central plank in his campaign. Here is Dan proclaiming his support for equality in a rally for the National Equality March:
And here is his campaign website, which lists marriage and LGBT equality as one of ten key issues -- alongside jobs, the economy, education, the environment, and health care -- that Dan wants voters to consider when making their choice.
Dan's primary opponent, Pat Quinn, does not even come close to this level of commitment. Quinn opposes marriage equality, and LGBT people and issues are nowhere to be found on his campaign website.
The choice in this race was a clear one for me. Dan Hynes's long commitment to LGBT equality, the leadership he has shown on marriage equality during this campaign, and the high regard in which he is held throughout the State have earned Dan my strong endorsement. I will be doing what I can to help him win this primary and become the next Governor of Illinois.
But the importance of Dan's candidacy extends beyond the fight for LGBT equality in Illinois. This race is another key test in determining the future of the Democratic Party. Around the country, the party is facing a moment of truth. LGBT voters have been among the most loyal supporters and contributors to Democratic candidates, but all too often Democrats have not produced. The recent vote on marriage equality in the New York Senate cast the problem in sharp relief. As we hold accountable those elected officials who fail to stand for our rights, we must also identify leaders who recognize the debt that the Party owes to its LGBT supporters and will make full equality a centerpiece of Democratic politics going forward.
Dan Hynes is one of those leaders. The Illinois chapter of Stonewall Democrats recognizes the importance of his candidacy and recently gave Dan their endorsement. (The other statewide LGBT group, Equality Illinois, has not yet weighed in.) It is time for LGBT advocates around the country to do the same. Every phone call and dollar that we devote to defeating anti-equality Democrats in states like New York must be matched with support for our champions in key elections like the Illinois Governor's race.
Dan Hynes's candidacy can be a model for what a positive, pro-equality politics will look like in the Democratic Party. His victory will advance the cause of equality in America's fifth largest state by a decade, and it will help to set a new tone for Democratic politics around the country. Dan Hynes wants to become the next Governor of Illinois because of, not in spite of, his commitment to core principles like full equality for all citizens. It is up to us to help him do it.
Tobias Barrington Wolff was the Chair of LGBT Policy for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. He is a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a civil rights lawyer and advocate.