SPRINGFIELD-A top Illinois GOP leader Monday placed his support behind state Republican Party chairman Pat Brady in a leadership battle that could result in Brady being fired from the post for supporting same-sex marriage.
"I think he should stay," House Republican leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said.
"I think we need to be a party that's in a growth mode and including people, not excluding. The point to me is you can have different opinions in our party - you may be for marriage equality, you may be opposed to marriage equality. But it doesn't mean you're any better or worse as a Republican. You're still a Republican."
Brady, who has held the unpaid position since 2009, was told Friday about the special meeting of the party's state Central Committee to consider firing him. Unable to attend the March 9 meeting in Springfield, Brady said he isn't sure where the votes stand in the committee.
"Anything can happen in those meetings," he said. "I think it will really damage the party. There's really no upside for the Republicans in this mess."
Brady made public his support for marriage equality legislation - which has passed in the Senate - last month and in doing so, spurred an effort by state Sen. and 14th District Committeeman Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) to oust him. Oberweis got the fifth and final committee member signature needed to call the meeting last week, but a three-fifths majority vote from the 19-member panel will be needed to fire Brady.
Brady indicated he would not change his stance and said he thinks Republicans could benefit with a more open approach.
"We're a party that welcomes a diversity of opinions, and that's how I feel most people feel about it," Brady said. "But Jim Oberweis doesn't feel about it that way, and he wants a purity test...and it hasn't worked."
Oberweis could not be reached for comment.
Cross seemed to also lean towards more open party guidelines.
"Regardless of your opinion, we've claimed to be a party of a big tent," he said. "There's a place for everybody, in my opinion, and that's why I think [Brady] should stay."
The same-sex marriage legislation that passed out of the Senate is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday in the House Executive Committee.