Gay Marriage Controversial but Not Biggest Issue, Candidates Say -BYLN- by Mike Riopell and Kerry Lester Mriopell@dailyherald.com Klester@dailyherald.Com

Article excerpt

While the question whether same-sex couples should be legally allowed to marry is percolating on both the state and federal levels, suburban candidates on both sides of the issue are stepping back from making it a central point in their campaigns.

Legislation in Springfield to legalize gay marriage is getting attention, and a state court case trying to achieve the same goal is under review.

On the federal level, President Barack Obama has voiced support for same-sex marriage for the first time, though saying states should decide it. And the U.S. Supreme Court term that started this week could have the court decide whether to take arguments in one of several gay marriage cases.

It's an issue that remains controversial in Illinois, but as voters worry about their job security and financial futures, candidates for seats in both Washington, D.C., and Springfield say they're not necessarily making it a talking point.

Asked in a Daily Herald questionnaire whether the law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman should be overturned or upheld, Congressman Joe Walsh responded with a two-sentence answer, far shorter than his lengthy responses on other issues.

"I believe that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman. However, I do not believe this issue is central to the campaign," the McHenry Republican wrote.

His opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, supports legalizing gay marriage, which she describes as "rooted in love."

Congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale -- one of three Republicans across the nation to get a financial boost from pro-gay rights Republican superPAC American Unity -- says the issue should be handled by the states.

The superPAC, founded by New Yorker Paul Singer, will spend $500,000 on ads supporting her and attacking her opponent, Democrat Bill Foster of Naperville.

Biggert, like her opponent, who served in Congress from 2009 to 2011, has voted for stricter sentencing for hate crimes and to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Asked about her position on gay marriage, she noted "no Congress ever has seen fit to amend the Constitution to address any issue related to marriage. …