The Republican Governor of Illinois says he will not revoke his endorsement of a candidate who claimed that child abusers make better parents than gay people.
Erika Harold, a former Miss America winner who is running for Illinois Attorney General, is facing scrutiny this week over comments she is alleged to have made in 2000.
It is alleged that while in the Miss America pageant, Harold had claimed it would be better for heterosexual child abusers to be parents to a child rather than a gay couple.
The comments have led to widespread condemnation, but Governor Bruce Rauner has refused to withdraw his backing for the candidate.
Speaking to the press, Rauner dismissed the scandal as a political “hit job” and said he would not be withdrawing his support.
He said: “I’ve known Erika Harold for about five years, and I have found her to be a person of great talent and integrity and goodwill, and I can’t comment beyond that.”
Asked if he would place a child with child abusers over a gay couple, Rauner said: “It’s a preposterous question and I know many loving, excellent parents who are gay couples… and that would be a good option.”
Harold has claimed she does not remember making the comments, and said her position had changed on the issue.
She told ABC7: “I don’t remember the specific exchange that was alleged by the anonymous sources.
“What I do remember is that at the time I would not have supported same-sex adoption, but what I want to make very clear is my position today, which is I strongly support same-sex adoption and same-sex foster parenting.”
Pat Quinn, Democratic candidate for Illinois Attorney General, said: “Erika Harold’s reported views about the legitimate adoption rights of gay couples should alarm everyone in Illinois.
“Ms. Harold should know that there is never a situation when it is acceptable to knowingly put children in an unsafe home.
“All children deserve loving parents who will protect them from harm. To expose foster youth to abusive placements is inexcusable and wrong.
“As Governor, I stood for tolerance and fought hard to make marriage equality the law of Illinois. As Attorney General, I will speak out against bigotry whenever it surfaces. I will protect children from abusive situations and I will safeguard the rights of gay couples.
“As Bruce Rauner’s handpicked candidate for Attorney General, Ms. Harold has the duty to protect children from abuse and combat bigotry of any kind.”
The Illinois Collaboration on Youth said: “There is never a situation when it is acceptable to knowingly put children into a dangerous or unsafe home.
“Children and youth who have been abused or neglected deserve to have their elected officials be their fiercest advocates, protecting their safety and well-being.
“When children enter the child welfare system, the State of Illinois assumes the responsibility of parent for them for as long as they are under the custody of the State.
“As the association representing child welfare providers who serve more than 80% of the abused or neglected children in DCFS’ care, as well as community-based youth providers who work to keep young people safe and out of the child welfare system, we expect that all of our elected officials will place the utmost importance on their role as temporary parent for our children.”
The Governor of Illinois had become embroiled in a row after it emerged that his ‘body man’ Ben Tracey has a history of homophobia.
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Tracey had repeatedly used the homophobic slur “faggot” on his since-deleted Twitter account. Responding to a user joking about anal rape, he added: “I bet you liked that #fag.”
In another message he wrote “You stole that from me, homo”, while he also told a user: “That last tweet was gay as s**t”.
A spokesperson for Rauner said: “These tweets are unacceptable. The individual in question is no longer an employee of our administration.”
Rauner was elected Governor in 2014, running on a platform that included overturning the state’s same-sex marriage law.
However, he later backed down, and has become a mild supporter of LGBT rights.
Speaking in 2015, he said: “I’m proud to say that the state of Illinois is one of the most welcoming states in America for members of the LGBT community. I want to enhance that.
“But very importantly, more broadly, we want to make this the best state in America for business leaders, business builders and job creators.”
“Illinois is very supportive of the LGBT community. That’s true in the business community. I want to make sure it’s very true inside our state government.
“Many members of our senior team at our most senior level … many of our senior staff members are members of the community.”