Green Party’s Whitney: involve citizens in solutions

By Tom Dermody
For the Catholic Conference of Illinois

Instead of looking for someone in politics to “save us,” citizens need to be more involved themselves in organizing a better society, according to Rich Whitney.

Now making a second run for Illinois governor as a Green Party candidate ? the Carbondale attorney garnered 10 percent of the vote in 2006 ? Whitney, 54, said his life has been a “quest” to find and help implement answers to problems such as unemployment, poverty, and pollution. He is one of the founding members of the Illinois Green Party.

In an interview with the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI), Whitney found agreement with conference positions on legislation involving immigration and capital punishment, but admitted “we’re going to have to agree to disagree” on certain pro-life, marriage, and education issues.

Whitney is one of five candidates for Illinois governor in the Nov. 2 election.

In late summer, four of the candidates ? Whitney, Illinois Sen. Bill Brady (Republican), Scott Lee Cohen (Independent), and Lex Green (Libertarian) — completed brief questionnaires from CCI and agreed to follow-up interviews.

Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who is running for re-election on the Democratic ticket, declined to take part in either the survey or interview.

Whitney, who practices in employment law, civil rights, and criminal defense, was “adamant” in opposing “repressive” views of immigration issues that seek solutions through deportation, building higher walls, or turning Illinois “into a police state.”

“There’s another way to respond, and that is to recognize what are the sources of the problem and turn to solutions that involve building greater unity, not greater divisiveness,” he said. “I support that course,” he added, though acknowledging most immigration issues have to be solved federally “and ultimately, internationally.”

On capital punishment, Whitney said he has long opposed the death penalty and, as governor, would go beyond the current moratorium in Illinois and support a bill like House Bill 5687 to completely abolish it.

“I do not think it is the role of imperfect human institutions, such as government, to take a human life,” said Whitney. Further, he has seen through his own law experience that there are “imperfections throughout” the criminal justice system. He also believes in the “power of redemption,” even for those who have committed violent crimes.

The issue of same-sex marriage is one on which Whitney disagrees with Catholic public policy. Not only does he support legislation establishing civil unions, but Whitney said he supports the right of same-sex couples to marry.

“For me, it’s a question of equal protection under the law, equal rights under society,” said Whitney. However, he did express concern for how such legislation would affect religious institutions, saying it would require “some careful line drawing.”

“A Catholic or a Lutheran or a Presbyterian or whatever organization that is doing good work in placing children with adoptive parents shouldn’t be put in a position where it has to compromise its own principles in order to continue that work,” he said.

He also opposes offering tuition vouchers to parents of students in underperforming or overcrowded schools to enable them to choose non-public schools if desired. He believe the practice would violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment “establishment clause” on religion and also “further the deterioration of our public schools.”

For reasons of privacy, expense, and government “intrusion” on what he considers a patient-physician decision, Whitney also opposes the Ultrasound Opportunity Act. The Catholic Conference of Illinois supports the legislation which would mandate that abortion facilities offer women seeking abortion an opportunity to view an ultrasound of their unborn baby.

Whitney doesn’t believe in “re-criminalizing abortion,” but said people divided on the issue can find common ground in efforts to reduce its frequency. He would work to create a full employment economy, offer the fullest educational opportunities, and create “an environment where women who do become pregnant are better enabled to afford to raise children.”

Whitney and his wife, Paula, are the parents of three adult children.

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