More than 200 people have signed up for the new LGBT Committee for Rahm in Rahm Emanuel's race for Chicago mayor, and about 50 of them showed up for a press conference at the Center on Halsted Jan. 28. The LGBT Committee also includes straight allies.
The location was symbolic, since as a U.S. representative, Emanuel helped secure a $1.25 million federal earmark to help build the LGBT community center.
Former Center board chair Robert Kohl, co-chair of Emanuel's campaign, introduced the committee to the press, which was out in force the day after Emanuel learned from the state Supreme Court that he will remain on the mayoral ballot. Community activist Mona Noriega introduced Emanuel, saying she liked his sometimes controversial style.
Emanuel pointed to his accomplishments, including the Center funding and working to eliminate bullying in schools. He mentioned the state's civil-unions bill but said he looked forward to lobbying in Springfield for full marriage rights. He mentioned the accomplishments of the Obama White House on LGBT issues, while Emanuel was Chief of Staff, including repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, passing the hate-crimes law, and issuing an executive order banning hospitals that receive federal funds from discriminating against LGBT familiessomething Emanuel said he pushed Obama to do after hearing about the Janice Langbehn-Lisa Pond case in Florida.
Emanuel said he will keep on course with Mayor Daley's progress on LGBT issues, and said he would take it further, possibly including city pension benefits for gay partners. He also promised to continue working to make the police department more accountable on transgender issues.
All four of Chicago's openly gay elected officials are backing Emanuel: Ald. Tom Tunney, state Rep. Greg Harris, state Rep. Deborah Mell and Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore. Only Harris missed the event, due to a scheduling conflict. Other politicians attending include Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, Ald. Mary Ann Smith, state Sen. Heather Steans and former state Sen. Carol Ronen. Mayor Daley's liaison to the LGBT community Bill Greaves, and Kelly Cassidy and Vernita Gray of the state's attorney's office were all at the endorsement event as well, but as individuals.
Community activists at the event included: Pat Ewert, Modesto "Tico" Valle, Clark Pellett, Jim Bennett, Israel Wright, Jr., Dane Tidwell, Paul Fairchild, Jill Metz, Ronna Hoffberg, John Barry, Dave Reithoffer, Michael Bauer, Roger Simon, Dave Samber, Vicki Raymont, Kevin Boyer, Norman Sandfield, Bill Kelley, Dalila Fridi, Gary Chichester, Tom Chaderjian, Brandon Neese, Stan Sloan, Laura Ricketts, Beth Plotner, Rhett Lindsay, Jerry Pagorek and Darr Gapshis. An official list of all Emanuel LGBT and allied supporters is on the Emanuel campaign website.
Kohl announced there would be an LGBT fundraiser for Emanuel Feb. 11, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at The Ivy Room at Tree Studios, 12 E. Ohio. There is a $30 minimum donation, and RSVP is required at www.chicagoforrahm.com/LGBT. Kohl and Pellett are event co-chairs, along with Mark Cozzi, Fred Eychaner, Todd Hamilton, Ray Koenig III, Phil Lumpkin, Gail Morse and Lauren Verdich, Tom O'Briant and David Boul, and Laura Ricketts.
A mayoral forum sponsored by more than 32 LGBT groups is also being planned, Wed., Feb. 9, and Emanuel is expected to attend.