The Human Rights Campaign publicly endorsed 10th congressional district Democratic candidate Brad Schneider Wednesday morning.
Members of the civil rights organization, which has more than a million supporters nationwide, said Schneider’s opponent U.S. Rep. Bob Dold (R-10) is on the “wrong side of history” when it comes to equality issues and has failed the LGBT community.
Earlier this week, Schneider, of Deerfield, launched an online petition calling on Congress to act quickly to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would give lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees protection from discrimination.
Currently, there is no federal law protecting LGBT workers from discrimination, and Schneider’s petition already has more than 1,000 signatures.
“Brad not only supports issues important to our community, but makes them a part of his campaign,” said John Barry, a Human Rights Campaign board member and long-time Illinois activist. “That shows true leadership.”
Dold opposes ENDA and marriage equality. He voted twice to support the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage between a man and a woman, according to Schneider’s campaign.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, said Dold has a very “disturbing” record on LGBT issues.
“Brad is on the right side of history,” Cole-Schwartz said. “His opponent remains out of touch.”
Previous to Schneider, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed then U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-10) in 2006 and 2008.
Schneider said in a phone interview that he’s “deeply honored” the civil rights organization endorsed him, adding that equality has always been important to him.
“When I entered this campaign, it was not an issue that I said I was going to move from,” Schneider said. “It’s always been clearly important to me.”
Schneider said a member of his family is gay, along with many of his close friends.
He told the story about a family friend who was in a committed — but mostly secretive — relationship with his partner for more than 10 years.
One day, Schneider’s friend was jogging and had a heart attack and died. The man’s partner didn’t learn for quite a while that he was dead, and during the funeral, he had to sit in the back of the church because the family didn’t know he was gay.
“This was a very searing moment for me,” Schneider said. “This was wrong.”
Schneider said he and his opponent have stark differences on equality issues.
In 2010, Dold said he opposed the discrimination protection measure for LGBT workers because he doesn’t believe they should have “special rights.”
Schneider said he thinks that’s wrong.
“Equal rights are not special rights,” he said.
More than 75 percent of Americans believe all employees, regardless of who they are or what they believe, should have the same equal workplace protections, said Schneider.
And that’s something “I’m committed to fighting for and working for in Congress,” he added.