American Unity PAC, a Republican super PAC aimed at expanding support for same-sex marriage, was announced with great fanfare in June. But it may not be living up to the hype: one of the congressional candidates it’s supporting with hundreds of thousands in TV ads is not only publicly opposed to same-sex marriage, she also just equated the practice with polygamy and bigamy.
Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) may not be what the establishment who fawned over American Unity PAC had in mind when the group was announced.
At a press conference after a debate Wednesday night, Biggert explained that she’s “close” to supporting same-sex marriage rights, but is “not there yet.” Then she said the issue is best left to the states, equating same-sex marriage laws with the universally-accepted illegal acts of bigamy and polygamy.
“It is a state issue,” Biggert said. “We don’t have polygamy and bigamy and all of these things in the federal government. It’s the states that take care of that.”
Biggert’s opposition to same-sex marriage is well documented. During Wednesday’s televised debate for example, she explained that she’s not ready to condone expanding marriage rights, saying that she’s concerned about the legal ramifications.
“As a lawyer, and having worked with, you know, estate planning and everything, I think that we really need to see how that would work,” she said. Biggert noted she supports civil union laws.(Watch the whole debate here.)
Despite her current opposition to same-sex marriage, American Unity PAC is spending around $500,000 — big money in a congressional race — to back Biggert’s reelection bid. When the pro-Biggert effort was announced last month, an official with the PAC noted Biggert’s voting record supporting a ban on hiring discrimination against LGBT applicants as well as in favor of hate crime legislation. The pro-LGBT GOP super PAC also cited her conservative economic voting record.
“For that reason, we prioritized the race,” American Unity PAC adviser Jeff Cook told ChicagoBusiness.com. “She’s worked hard to bring Americans together to solve our problems.”
American Unity PAC was founded by GOP superdonor Paul Singer, who spent a fortune to get same-sex marriage legalized in New York state. In June he told the New York Times the “sole mission” of his PAC “will be to encourage Republican candidates to support same-sex marriage.”
On Friday, Biggert’s campaign released a statement backpedaling from the of the “bigamy and polygamy” line.
“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 statement reads. “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.”
Biggert also touted an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign at the debate and in the post-debate press conference. On Monday the HRC sent out an email urging its supporters to vote for Biggert, making her the only Republican on its list of Illinois endorsements. The group stuck by her after the “polygamy and bigamy” line.
“The Congresswoman’s answer was certainly inarticulately stated and we’re happy that she’s clarified she was not making a comparison,” HRC spokesperson Michael 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.”
Cole-Schwartz said Biggert still has HRC’s support in her reelection bid.
“Her consistent support of a range of issues from hate crimes protections to DADT repeal to an inclusive ENDA to HIV/AIDS funding has earned her our endorsement,” he said.
(This post has been updated.)