Illinois congresswoman Judy Biggert has endorsements from pro-gay groups, but at a post-debate press conference Wednesday night she invoked bigamy and polygamy in explaining why marriage equality is a “state issue.”
Biggert, a Republican, said she is “close” to supporting marriage equality but said it isn’t a matter for the federal government to address. “We don’t have polygamy and bigamy and all of these things in the federal government,” she said at the press conference after a debate with Democratic opponent Bill Foster on a Chicago television station. “It’s the states that take care of that.”
Her campaign released a statement today attempting to clarify those comments. “Like many Americans, the Congresswoman grapples with the idea of marriage for same-sex couples,” it read. “The point she was making in the debate is that states — not the federal government — give out marriage licenses and make the determination about parameters for marriage, like they do for example in terms of age. The reference to polygamy and bigamy were in that context and she certainly did not mean to make a comparison between that and loving same-sex couples. She remains committed to the LGBT community and opposes efforts to write discrimination into the Constitution to take rights away from people.”
Biggert has the endorsement of the American Unity PAC, a super PAC founded by wealthy Republican Paul Singer to encourage GOP candidates to support marriage equality. She also has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, making her the only Republican from the Illinois congressional delegation to receive the HRC’s stamp of approval, and the Log Cabin Republicans.
HRC spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz told Talking Points Memo his group is continuing to back Biggert. “The congresswoman’s answer was certainly inarticulately stated, and we’re happy that she’s clarified she was not making a comparison,” Cole-Schwartz told TPM. “Like many Americans she is on a journey on marriage equality, and we will continue to work with her to move her toward a supportive position.”
Biggert, considered a moderate Republican, is seeking her eighth term in Congress, a task made more difficult by the fact that her suburban Chicago district is now more Democratic after its boundaries were redrawn in the wake of the 2010 census.
Foster, a former congressman, clashed with her over marriage equality during and after the debate. He stated his opposition to same-sex marriage rights in a newspaper questionnaire two years ago, but now his support for the cause is “not ambiguous,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“She has not yet evolved,” he said of Biggert at the press conference. “So she’s crawling out of the swamp or something.” The Tribune further reported, “Asked if he, too, had evolved on the issue, Foster replied, ‘I’m all dry, fluffed off and happy to be a hominid.’”
Watch a clip of Biggert at press conference below, courtesy of TPM.