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Gay attorney Mike Forti eyes judicial seat
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

This article shared 5647 times since Wed Jan 25, 2012
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Mike Forti has had such a long and successful enough career that if he wanted, he could sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor—a high-ranking litigation job with the City of Chicago and some of the city's biggest cases under his belt. Instead, the openly gay attorney is throwing his hat into the race for a seat as a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Windy City Times talked with Forti on why he thinks the time is right to make the move to judge and where he thinks the law is prejudiced against LGBT people.

Windy City Times: So Mike, tell us a bit about yourself.

Mike Forti: I've been practicing law for almost 32 years in Chicago. I'm a St. Louis resident, but I came to Chicago and I loved it when I came to Northwestern in 1977. I began my practice in the private sector … but for the last 17 years I've been at the City of Chicago's law department, and for virtually all of that time a deputy corporation council in charge of conflicts litigation.

WCT: What made you decide to run for judge now?

MF: Well, there were a couple of factors that led to my thinking. One was that I had been at city for a fair amount of time. With Mayor Daley's decision not to run for re-election, it made me think about what several people had suggested to me … that perhaps I should think seriously about the bench. They thought that I had the right skill set to be a qualified judge.

WCT: A lot of voters don't consider the judiciary because there seems to be less of an opportunity for change there. What do you think is important to know about you as a candidate for judge?

MF: In some ways I understand when people say that judges don't have platforms in the sense that we value the fact that a judge is going to be fair and impartial. … But I think it is fair to say that people can look at lawyers and people interested in the bench on what their background has been. For example, I've been very passionate defending the city's gun ordinances. That's partly my job, but it's also my passion because I think it's important to abide by the second amendment, but still believe that there can be reasonable gun laws.

I also think it's important to provide a forum, particularly in these days when everyone is cynical about government and feeling that they're on the short end of the stick. In some small but important way, when people come to the courthouse and feel like they're going to get a fair shake based on the facts of their case and not feel like they're disadvantaged because of the color of the skin or what their income level is or because they don't know a particularly powerful person.

WCT: In the LGBT community there has been a bit of pushback against the city over recent budget cuts, among other things. Are you at all concerned that running as a person connected to the city will present a challenge for your campaign?

MF: I haven't felt that in talking to people in the LGBT community. I certainly have had an important position in the law department, but that's primarily directed towards litigation. I haven't been an insider, if you will, when it comes to what the city's policies are with respect to LGBT.

WCT: And you are a member of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, correct?

MF: Yes. I think I've been a member of that bar association for the last two years.

WCT: Have you been active with any other LGBT community organizations or issues?

MF: I've been active, as long as I can remember, being a contributor to the AIDS Legal Council. I couldn't, given my job, actually do AIDS legal work, but I tried to compensate for that by being a contributor of the AIDS Legal Council and Equality Illinois for quite some time.

WCT: The Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago asks candidates what they see as a deprivation of rights for LGBT people under the law. So I'd like to ask you: How would you answer that question yourself?

MF: Well, the one that I think most vividly and initially comes to mind is the discrimination by virtue of the fact that committed gay couples do not get the tax benefits by the federal government by virtue of the fact that if one is married or has a civil union in a state that does not affect how you're treated by the federal government.

I think we need to continue to be vigilant, and I think how, for example, the civil-union law is interpreted could go a long way towards really establishing greater equality.

WCT: Do you see opportunities for LGBT advocacy on the bench?

MF: I think that's very important, and I think there is some framework already established by the [ LGBT organization ] Alliance of [ Illinois ] Judges. It's a good way to create dialogue, and I'm guessing that dialogue also can occur behind the scenes. We all know that whether it's in federal court or in state court, judges talk. They talk as friends and they talk about their cases. That's a whole additional way of having influence if there are more LGBT members on the bench.

WCT: What do you want people know about you as an LGBT candidate?

MF: I think I present a candidate that is both highly qualified based on my 30-plus years of practice and a proud member of the LGBT community. So, this is not an instance where people have to pick either someone that is highly qualified someone that is a member of the LGBT community. I think that people in the LGBT community want and deserve both, just like the rest of the population.

A Mike Forti fundraiser will take place Wed., Feb. 1, 6-8 p.m. at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St. Tickets are $50 each, and include two drink coupons and hors d'oeuvres. See .

This article shared 5647 times since Wed Jan 25, 2012
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