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2019: The year in local LGBTQ news
by Matt Simonette
2019-12-24

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A new year in Chicago meant new developments, ranging from pro-LGBTQ measures to anti-trans vandalism to a history-making mayor.

—Breaking ground: Lamont J. Robinson Jr. became the first out Black LGBTQ Illinois General Assembly member following his swearing-in ceremony as the 5th district representative Jan. 2.

—Rise in the ranks: Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued a statement Jan. 10 announcing his appointment of openly gay state Rep. Greg Harris as House majority leader.

—Stanton arrest: A 17-year-old was arrested for the murder of Dejanay Stanton, a transgender Chicagoan who was killed in August 2018.

—Swearing in: Longtime Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Snyder, who is gay, swore in Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker the early afternoon of Jan. 14.

—Campaign lawsuit: A transgender woman who worked as a field organizer for the JB for Governor campaign, the organization whose work won J.B. Pritzker the governorship in 2018, sued the campaign in federal court, alleging that she was fired on the basis of her sex, among other factors.

—County ordinance: Cook County Commissioner Kevin B. Morrison announced an ordinance to establish a Committee on Addressing Bias, Equity, and Cultural Competency on Jan. 24.

—Runoff: Chicagoan Lori Lightfoot, the first Black lesbian mayoral candidate in the city's history, won the Feb. 26 general election with about 17.69 percent of the vote. She thus faced off April 2 against runner-up candidate Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who garnered about 15.95 percent of the vote

—Moving: The Night Ministry, the Chicago-based advocacy for persons experiencing homelessness, announced Feb. 22 that its Lake View facility for young adults, the Crib, would likely be leaving for a new location in the Bucktown neighborhood.

—Jussie's mess: A Cook County grand jury in February charged embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett in a 16-count indictment that maintained he lied to Chicago authorities about being the victim of an allegedly phony attack the month before. The charges were dropped, but the case continued to inspire waves of litigation and controversy. Smollet was eventually let go from Empire.

—Victory: Attorney and former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot handily won the Chicago's mayor's office on April 2, becoming not only the first Black female mayor in the city's history, but its first openly lesbian mayor as well, carrying all 50 wards in the city. She was sworn in May 20, with her wife at her side.

—End in sight: Long-running litigation involving public-accommodations access for transgender students in the Northwest suburbs came to a seeming end April 15, when U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso on Monday approved the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to bar transgender students from using the locker room of the gender with which they identify at District 211 in Palatine.

—Council changes: The Chicago aldermanic runoff races that were initially too close to call were settled later in April—and lesbian Ald. Deb Mell ( 33rd Ward ) lost her seat while gay Ald. James Cappleman ( 46th Ward ) narrowly retained his. Also, queer Ald. Maria Hadden ( 49th Ward ) was elected.

—Lots of Pride: Throughout the spring, numerous Pride celebrations were announced in Chicago suburbs and exurbs, among them Woodstock, Joliet, Highwood and Buffalo Grove. The Aurora Pride parade ran into difficulties when its expenses multiplied, but was able to raise the needed funds.

—New lawsuit: Eight transgender Illinoisans filed a lawsuit, on May 1, against Cook County officials, maintaining that name-change laws pertaining to convicted felons are inherently biased against transgender persons.

—Progress controversy: Affinity Community Services, Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus and Lighthouse Church of Chicago members and their allies protested against Boystown's Progress Bar June 2 following seemingly anti-persons of color directives from the bar's owner. The owner eventually met with protestors. Lighthouse eventually carried out additional action against Center on Halsted as the summer continued.

—Community support: Cook County Commissioner Kevin B. Morrison called on residents to support one another amidst bullying and harassment of an LGBTQ youth in Barrington in June.

—Rainbow crossing: Crosswalks in Boystown were painted in the colors of rainbow flags in June.

—New CEO: Chicago House announced that its board of trustees appointed Michael Herman as its newest CEO.

—Clerk candidate: Campaign activist and civil-rights attorney Jacob Meister launched his campaign for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court last summer. His presumed opponent, longtime clerk Dorothy Brown, later announced she would not be seeking re-election.

—Executive orders: On June 30, shortly before the Pride parade began, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order protecting transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary students throughout the state. The next month, he signed an order that single-occupancy restrooms shall be designated and labeled as "all-gender" or "gender-neutral."

—Rained out: The 2019 Chicago Pride Parade was initially halted and spectators told to seek shelter at about 2:15 p.m. on June 30 when a severe storm erupted, drenching parade goers and participants. City officials halted the procession because of the potential for lightning and high winds. The parade was then cancelled outright.

—Freedom: Strawberry Hampton—a transgender woman who was transferred to multiple Illinois men's prisons after making abuse allegations against inmates and guards—was freed last summer.

—Confirmation: The U.S. Senate in July confirmed lesbian magistrate Mary Rowland to a U.S. district court judgeship in Illinois. She was sworn into office in November.

—More Halsted Street news: The rainbow pylons dotting the Halsted Street landscape—and which are the basis of the Legacy Walk outdoor museum—officially became city landmarks on July 24.

—More Pritzker signings: On Aug. 9, the governor signed at least three pieces of legislation that benefited the LGBT community. HB 246 ensured the contributions of LGBTQ people are taught in public schools. Another measure ( SB 1378 ) protected LGBT persons from discrimination in jury service. Lastly, SB 1379 made LGBTQ older adults and people living with HIV target populations in aging programs funded through the federal Older Americans Act.

—More Palatine: Officials from Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 said Sept. 19 that they would be considering over the fall how to determine logistics of a policy that would permit transgender students to use the locker rooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify, according to reports.

—Andersonville support: Women & Children First bookstore, the Chicago Therapy Collective and Andersonville Chamber of Commerce joined forces Oct. 20 in a community activation event responding to multiple instances of anti-trans vandalism directed at the store.

—Chick-fil-A protest: A group of suburban activists held a "family-friendly" protest Thursday, Nov. 14—the opening day of a new Deerfield Chick-fil-A franchise.

—Pastoral closing: Greg O'Neill and Ken Miller—the couple who founded and owned Chicago business Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine—closed it in November, after 15 years.


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