CLEARWATER, FL -- Republicans mostly wanted nothing to do with helping pass a state law legalizing civil unions in 2011.
Yet a prominent gay-rights organization in Illinois is footing the drink tab for the state's GOP delegates Tuesday - and, on Monday, went so far as to criticize Mitt Romney for allowing the "far right" to "hijack" the national party's platform on the issue of gay marriage.
Nationally, Republicans adopted language calling for a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriages across the country and to begin enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
"The proposed Republican platform flies in the face of the growing national consensus behind equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in general and marriage equality specifically," Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, said in a prepared statement.
"The language shows that the Romney-Ryan ticket, whose anti-LGBT positions are well known, has allowed the far right in the Republican Party to hijack the convention process," Cherkasov said.
Equality Illinois has agreed to pay "a couple thousand" dollars to cover the bar tab for what is described as a Beachside Cocktail Hour in the Clearwater, Fla., hotel where Illinois delegates are staying for the Republican National Committee, an Equality Illinois spokesman said.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Romney's Illinois campaign manager and the only Senate Republican to vote for the civil unions law, expressed support for the Equality Illinois' stance on the gay-marriage constitutional amendment question.
Rutherford said he is against gay marriage but doesn't believe a constitutional question should dictate to states how they should handle the matter.
"My personal opinion is I'm not sure that's where I would go if I was making those decisions," Rutherford told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I think it should be left up to the individual states."
Rutherford said he did not know whether Equality Illinois' sponsorship of a cocktail hour would breed any dissension among more conservative members of the delegation but said if it does they are under no obligation to drink the group's liquor.
"They can go someplace else and drink," Rutherford said.