Illinois State Senator Bill Brady, the GOP front-runner for the Illinois governor's mansion, has authored a bill that would exempt religious groups from a gay protections law, gay website reported.

Brady's bill would carve out exceptions to the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, for religious groups, effectively allowing any church-affiliated group to discriminate against gay people. The bill's exceptions would only apply to workplace protections.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the bill today.

Last Thursday, the bill's sponsorship was transferred from Brady, who authored the bill, to Senator John O. Jones, a Springfield Republican. Brady has also transferred sponsorship of a controversial bill that would re-legalize mass euthanasia of dogs and cats.

“It is interesting that he [Brady] has tried to backpedal on this attempt to expand discrimination by passing sponsorship to Senator Jones, just as he has tried to backpedal on his efforts to kill animals in a cruel and inhumane way,” said openly gay State Representative Greg Harris, a Democrat from Chicago. “I wonder where his true beliefs lie: his initial instincts or his reaction to the outrage of the Illinois public.”

Equality Illinois, the state's largest gay rights advocate, called the bill “outrageous.”

“This law has been on the books for over 5 years now, protecting Illinoisans' basic human rights, and doing so very well,” Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, said. “Senator Brady wants to energize his base in anticipation of his gubernatorial run, and he is trying to do that at the expense of LGBT equality.”

Cherkasov is urging members of the gay community to contact members of the committee: “It is up to us as a community to stop this bill from moving anywhere,” he said.

Earlier in the month, Brady publicly acknowledged that he supports amending the state's constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual union, effectively banning gay marriage and blocking the state's top court from legalizing the institution.

“I'm trying to give the government back to the people,” Brady said.