Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady has rejected calls to resign after he urged state lawmakers to approve a gay marriage bill.

Last week, Brady said in a statement that legalizing the institution for gay couples “honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens and reinforces a key Republican value – that the law should treat all citizens equally.”

Party leaders pounced on Brady, some calling for his resignation.

“I was shocked,” state Senator Jim Oberweis, a GOP party committeeman, told WBEZ. “Very surprised. Did not expect that and didn't know why he would have done that.”

“His role as chairman should be to concentrate on uniting the party, and not dividing the party,” said state Senator Dave Syverson, who sits on the Republican State Central Committee.

Brady, however, stood by his remarks: “If people want to throw me out because I took on an issue of discrimination [as] the chairman of the Republican Party, the party founded by Abraham Lincoln, then that's – that's up to them and they're free to do it. But I'm not backing down.”

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk backed Brady, saying in a statement that he has full confidence in his leadership.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has pledged to spend $250,000 to oust any Republican lawmaker who votes to make Illinois the 10th state to legalize marriage equality.