Illinois Republicans have been accused of “dog-whistle” homophobia, after an election ad featured a gay Democrat with a limp wrist.
The attack leaflet, put out by the Illinois Republican chair Tim Schneider, took aim at his Democratic opponent in the race for Cook County Commissioner, Kevin Morrison—who, in case of victory, would become the first openly LGBT+ person to serve in that role.
The graphic depicts the gay politician as a puppet manoeuvred by the state Democratic leader Mike Madigan, featuring the candidate with one arm raised in the air making a “limp wrist” gesture.
The election ad (Victory Fund)
Morrison attacked the leaflet, which was distributed in mailboxes on October 11—National Coming Out Day—in a statement shared on his campaigning page on Facebook.
He wrote: “On National Coming Out Day, my opponent mailed an attack ad of me to voters across the district picturing me with a ‘limp wrist,’ a bigoted caricature of gay people.
“Actions like this are a dog whistle to homophobes and perpetuate violence against and oppression of LGBTQ people. This is unbecoming of a Cook County Commissioner.
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“We have to show Tim Schneider that we will not stand for anti-LGBTQ attacks like this. We have to win this election for Cook County, Illinois, and LGBTQ people across the country.”
The GOP leadership has denied the depiction of Morrison is homophobic.
“The whole image paints the entire picture clearly,” Travis Sterling, the executive director of the Illinois GOP, said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“This is nothing but a desperate attempt from Kevin Morrison to try and hide the fact that he takes his orders from [Cook County Democratic leader] Toni Preckwinkle and Mike Madigan,” he added.
But LGBT+ groups are now calling for an apology.
A statement from the pro-LGBT Equality Illinois PAC said: “The Equality Illinois PAC is deeply disturbed that the Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party would exploit a shameful anti-LGBTQ stereotype and homophobic imagery against openly gay candidate Kevin Morrison for Cook County Commissioner.
“The irony of this mailer arriving on National Coming Out Day makes it all the more offensive and tasteless. We call on incumbent Tim Schneider to denounce the mailer and affirm his support for LGBTQ Illinoisans.”
Annise Parker of LGBTQ Victory Fund, which is supporting Morrison’s candidacy, said in a statement: “Let me be clear: Tim Schneider and his team knew exactly what they were doing when they altered a photo of Kevin Morrison to show him with a limp wrist and on his tiptoes.
She added: “For too long, openly LGBTQ candidates were defeated by opponents who appealed to homophobia in a desperate effort to win votes, but I am confident this attack ad will backfire on Schneider.”