As Mayor, I want to not only continue the tradition Chicago has set in terms of being one of the most progressive leading cities in the country on LGBT rights, but I want to apply my long record, passion, and pioneerism towards ensuring there is not a next step but rather an end to ‘fighting’ for rights. Heterosexual individuals don’t have to fight for rights, why should the LGBT community? LGBT rights are civil rights. Period.
I have been a leader and pioneer of LGBT issues for over 30 years. Simply put, I believe that LGBT rights are civil rights. My record is a testimony to the movement itself, having been present and active at nearly every major milestone. I worked along side Mayor Harold Washington in creating the city’s first Gay and Lesbian Committee, which later evolved into the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Council, and fought for the passage of Chicago’s 1988 Gay and Lesbian Non-discrimination Act. I was the first U. S. Senator in our Nation’s history to appoint an LGBT liaison for my constituency. My deep commitment to LGBT rights gave me the fortitude to oppose my own party, President Clinton, and his advisors by being one of only twelve U. S. Senators to vote against DADT (“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell); and one of only fourteen to vote against DOMA.(The Defense of Marriage Act). In 2007 I was inducted into the City of Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, an honor I hold with the utmost respect and gratitude.
As Mayor, I envision a Chicago without prejudice; where sexual orientation and gender identity are not barriers; where LGBT rights are not only the law but are celebrated in every neighborhood.
I worked with legislators and former colleagues to win the recent passage of Civil Unions in Illinois. Although I celebrate this victory with the LGBT community, I am demanding the State move faster on full marriage equality. Like civil rights battles of the past, I believe that ‘separate but equal’ is NOT equality and that everyone should have equal status under law. I am proud of my record on LGBT issues, with full marriage equality at the debates forefront. My record on fighting for marriage equality dates back well over a decade, beginning when I lead a group of fourteen U.S. Senators to stand up for the LGBT community and vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I argued passionately on the Senate floor that, “Strides have been made to provide gay and lesbian Americans the equal protection of the laws, but DOMA is a retreat from that goal.” There is no room for negotiation. I join Mayor Daley in calling on Springfield to move faster in passing full marriage equality.
MAYOR’S ADVISORY COUNCIL ON LGBT ISSUES
I believe the Mayor’s Advisory Council on LGBT Issues has been and will continue to be one of the greatest contributors to City Government. As Mayor, I want the Council to incorporate more members that will lead to even greater representation for the diverse LGBT population across Chicago’s many unique neighborhoods, specifically, LGBT Youth and senior communities. Additionally, I want to see every relevant City Department have an LGBT Liaison that reports to the Advisory Council. This will open the lines of communication, ensure that the recommendations and solutions provided by the Council can be properly implemented and enforced, and to have a central clearinghouse for each department’s concerns.
Currently, the Mayor’s Advisory Council operates with virtually no budget. In fact the Director is required to raise funds for special events. As part of my overall strategy for reallocating resources, I want to see the Advisory Council equipped with an independent budget to properly serve its vital role.
I have made public safety for all of Chicago a foundation of my campaign. The Chicago police and fire department personnel must understand all of the city’s population to adequately serve and protect them. I am acutely aware that the Chicago Police and Fire Departments have not been provided the resources necessary to serve and protect the LGBT community. I believe that every police district must have an LGBT Liaison that is uniquely qualified to serve not only the LGBT population but to help train fellow officers.
I will hire a new Police Superintendent to lead the Chicago Police Department and better represent a more diverse and qualified force. I will mandate that the new Police Superintendent implement long overdue policies that will provide Chicago’s Finest with the tools necessary to better serve LGBT communities across Chicago. With new leadership, Chicago can successfully work to end hate crimes and sufficiently protect Chicago’s LGBT communities.
GAY AND LESBIAN HALL OF FAME
In 2007 I was given the prestigious distinction of being inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. I am the only mayoral candidate to earn this distinction and am honored to this day to have received this award.
SAFE, WORKING SCHOOLS
I am a strong advocate of creating a safe and working environment for LGBT youth. This is why I strongly believe in the agenda The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance has achieved and continues to work on. The Alliance’s efforts to promote a safe and secure environment in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the cornerstone towards implementing a substantive anti-bullying program. I will require that CPS train and designate an LGBT Liaison Team that can provide the necessary counseling services of LGBT bullied youth. This also entails a required comprehensive training for CPS faculty on LGBT issues at periodic intervals throughout the school year. I want to build an everlasting relationship between the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Public Schools to create anti-bullying policies and protect LGBT youth where they should feel the safest: at school.
LGBT Seniors are too often ignored in the City’s vast network of services. As part of my plan to expand the Mayor’s Advisory Council on LGBT Issues, a specific committee will be established to address the unique needs of LGBT seniors. I will act quickly to develop affordable LGBT friendly Senior housing across the city. LGBT seniors are vulnerable to across the board discriminations, most specifically legal discrimination from service providers. I will end this discriminatory practice and advocate that LGBT issues are addressed, such as ensuring a level playing field for couples that are prohibited from enjoying the legal provided to married couples. I support the current proposal to build an affordable LGBT-friendly senior housing center on the north Halsted Street – where there is a high population of LGBT seniors. But it’s important to recognize that LGBT residents are in every neighborhood; I will designate LGBT seniors as a target population under the Area Plan for the Chicago Development on Senior Services.
I have been a leader and advocate on HIV/AIDS policy since the early 1980s. Over the decades, as treatment has improved, I have agonized that HIV/AIDS has increased in minority populations. Prevention, education, and delivery of health services must be available to ALL people, in every neighborhood.
As Mayor, I will build stronger relationships with existing organizations like the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Howard Brown, BGMC, CALOR, VIDA/SIDA, TPAN, and others to ensure that expert advice is being utilized in ways to find funding along with implementing the City’s strategy of dedicated HIV/AIDS prevention. I have great concern that the Office of LGBT Health within the Illinois Department of Public Health is vacant and state government must move quickly to fill the vital leadership position of Director. As Mayor, I will use my influence to make sure this happens.
Additionally, there must be a ‘safety net’ program should funding fail or be lost. I will work with the organizations above to increase corporate funding and fully fund a trust should HIV/AIDS funding fall short. Public health is vital to a prosperous city and I am fully committed to assisting HIV/AIDS prevention and education organizations find funding and creating a dependable band of corporate sponsors. Lastly, I recognize that there are large and ill-placed barriers on low income individuals who lack access to healthcare, thus are not provided the necessary educational and medical resources. This is why I plan to work with HIV/AIDS organizations in organizing a safety net fund via corporate sponsorships to assist in increasing educational resources as well as funding for Syringe Exchange programs. Funding is the problem with many issues facing the city but as Mayor, I have the knowledge, capability, and dedication to find creative ways to help fund organizations who are working towards a safer, and healthier Chicago.