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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-11-25
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Emanuel's transition team has no gays
by Joseph Erbentraut, Windy City Times

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Only two days after he was elected as Chicago's first new mayor in 22 years, winning roughly 55 percent of the city's popular vote on Feb. 22, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced the co-chairs of his transition team in a press conference Feb. 24.

Among the team are two former chiefs of staff to current Mayor Richard M. Daley, the influential pastor of a South Side church and, notably, no openly gay or lesbian individuals.

David Mosena, now president and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry, previously served as the president of the Chicago Transit Authority ( CTA ) in addition to his stint with the Daley administration. Sarah Pang served as Daley's former deputy chief of staff for nine years and is currently senior vice president for corporate communications and public affairs for CNA Insurance companies.

Rounding out the team are Rev. Byron Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God; Felicia Davis, former police officer and Kendall College vice president of administration; Rebecca Gonzalez, Casa Central vice president of programs and operations; and Steve Koch, Credit Susse vice chairman.

The final co-chair announced last week—former state Rep. Judy Erwin—resigned her position abruptly after the Chicago Tribune reported that she had been fined for an ethics violation last year while the former executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Erwin had engaged in private campaign fundraising while on state time.

While a part of the state's General Assembly from 1992 to 2003, Erwin had a strong record on LGBT issues, earning the endorsement of the Equality Illinois PAC in her 2000 re-election campaign. Erwin was also a co-chair of Emanuel's mayoral campaign.

Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive director of Equality Illinois, indicated the lack of LGBT representation in Emanuel's transition team should not be a cause for alarm for the community. His organization's PAC joined a large coalition of LGBT community leaders in endorsing Emanuel's mayoral campaign last month.

"We look forward to working with the team of co-chairs to help identify the priorities for the city of Chicago, including the priorities of the LGBT community, and figure out a path to addressing them as soon as the mayor is in office," Cherkasov said.

Brazier's presence on the transition team is an eyebrow-raising choice, however. Brazier's father and the previous pastor of the Apostolic Church of God, the late Bishop Arthur, supported the Federal Marriage Amendment. Additionally, the church is affiliated with the Pentecostal movement, which generally condemns homosexuality as sinful. At press time, Brazier had not return Windy City Times' request for an interview.

Rev. Irene Monroe, coordinator of the African American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion, said Emanuel's selection of Brazier while not including any LGBT co-chairs was an intentional, and troubling, choice.

"It is a great concern," Monroe said. "Why that particular church when there are so many progressive churches he can choose from?

Monroe added Emanuel's choice reminded her of President Obama's friendship with some anti-gay religious leaders.

"I think what bothers me most about that is that progressives like Rahm and Obama don't mind taking LGBT money for their campaigns and don't mind our vote, but when it comes to full-throated advocacy, they invariably either let us down or leave us waiting like this time is never the right time for them to hit these particular issues," she added.

Robert Kohl, a co-chair of the LGBT coalition that backed Emanuel's mayoral campaign, remained confident that Emanuel is committed to diversity in his upcoming appointment decisions. Kohl noted that several senior leaders of Emanuel's transition and campaign staff are also openly gay.

Kohl also pointed to Emanuel's role in the Obama administration's record-setting number of presidential appointments as proof of more inclusion of openly LGBT people ahead.

"Rahm recognizes and has always recognized the need to identify and recruit qualified LGBT candidates and he's committed to diverse hiring across all the departments," Kohl said. "Rahm is comfortable with that process. He knows that it worked and he expects it will work well here as well."

The Obama administration's appointments were partially the result of a community-driven model similar to the recently announced Chicago Appointments Project. A joint effort led by Equality Illinois, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute, the project hopes to identify well-qualified openly LGBT names for appointment within the incoming Emanuel administration.

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