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Buttigieg and Pritzker headline Equality Illinois gala
by Matt Simonette

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South Bend, Indiana, Mayor—and potential presidential candidate—Pete Buttigieg was among the speakers headlining Equality Illinois' 2019 gala celebration Feb. 2 at Chicago Hilton and Towers.

About 1,500 guests attended the sold-out event, which also featured remarks from newly-elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker as well as the presumably final remarks for Equality Illinois from outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who pronounced himself "verklempt," or, overcome with emotion, at the occasion.

Emanuel discussed advances that the LGBT community had made in the last several years and expressed his confidence in Pritzker's stewardship of the state in the years ahead: "In the blink of an eye you can now serve in the military. If you want to get married, you can. … We're never going back."

Emanuel added, "We have a great future."

Joined onstage by his wife M.K., Pritzker mentioned his longtime support of LGBT-rights as well as the Equality Illinois organization: "From [founder] Art Johnston to [current CEO] Brian Johnson, I've always been with Equality Illinois."

He additionally pledged that he would put the full weight of the state government behind support for LGBT Illinoisans if threats to their rights were delivered from the federal level, promising that, "Our state government is firmly on your side."

In his remarks, Brian Johnson spoke both about becoming a father this past year and the legacy of activism and hard work that have resulted in greater equality for the LGBT community.

"We have all inherited a world that is more fair and equitable," Johnson said. "… We cannot squander our inheritance."

He later added, "If we don't continue to build our power, we will lose our power."

In his keynote remarks, Buttigieg discussed the long road he took to finally reach the difficult decision he made to come out publicly in 2015, a decision compounded by Indiana's historical conservativeness and anti-LGBT agenda that had largely been set in recent years by now-Vice-President Mike Pence.

"Since there had never been an out executive [political official] in our state, no one knew what would be the effect on my future," he noted, adding that, "What happened was I won 80 percent of the vote [in re-election]."

Buttigieg spoke about his military service in Afghanistan as well as his unease with being gay when he was younger. But he said that he had few regrets, since that path led hi to meet his husband, whom he married this past June.

"Being married to [husband Chasten Glezman] has made me a better man morally … and yes, Mr. Vice-President, it has moved me closer to God," he said.

Honorees at the event included Breakthru Beverage Group Vice Chairman Danny Wirtz; Channyn Lynn Parker, a longtime activist who is Howard Brown Health's newly-appointed manager of external relations; and Illinois AFL-CIO.

Additional political officials and candidates at the event included mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot, Jerry Joyce, Robert Fioretti; Amara Enyia, Gery Chico, William Daley, Willie Wilson, Paul Vallas. Cook County officials included Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, another mayoral candidate; Board Commisioners Donna Miller, Kevin Morrision; and County Clerk Karen Yarbrough.

State government officials included Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton; Secretary of State Jesse White; Treasurer Mike Frerichs; Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who is also mounting a mayoral campaign; and Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

Alds. Deb Mell ( 33rd Ward ), Tom Tunney ( 44th ), James Cappleman ( 46th ) and Ameya Pawar ( 47th ), who is also running to be city treasurer, also were in attendance, as were Metropolitian Water Reclamation District Commisioners Debra Shore, Mariyana Spyropoulos, Kimberly Du Buclet, Josina Morita and Marcelino Garcia.

State House members included Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris ( D-Chicago ); State Reps. Anna Moeller ( D-Elgin ), Kelly Cassidy ( D-Chicago ), Sam Yingling ( D-Round Lake ); Kathleen Willis ( D-Northlake ), Deb Conroy ( D-Villa Park ), Terra Costa Howard ( D-Glen Ellyn ), Diane Pappas ( D-Bloomingdale ), Theresa Mah ( D-Chicago ), Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz ( D- Glenview ), Sara Feigenholtz ( D-Chicago ), Joyce Mason ( D-Gurnee ), Daniel Didech ( D-Buffalo Grove ), Ann Williams ( D-Chicago ), Bob Morgan ( D-Deerfield ), Jonathan Carroll ( D-Northbrook ), Karina Villa ( D-West Chicago ) and Lamont Robinson ( D-Chicago ) along with former state Reps. Lauren Beth Gash, Ellis Levin and Steve Anderson.

From the State Senate, attendees included Senate President John Cullerton; State Sens. Dave Koehler ( D-Peoria ), Laura Ellman ( D-Naperville ), Suzy Glowiak ( D-Western Springs ), Ram Villivalam ( D-Chicago ), Omar Aquino ( D-Chicago ) and Don Harmon ( D-Oak Park ).

State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin ( D-Chicago ), who is a candidate for Chicago city treasurer, also attended, as did her fellow candidate for that post, Peter Gariepy. U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly ( IL-02 ) was accompanied by her House colleague, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline ( RI-01 ). Other attendees included Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville, former Gov. Pat Quinn, East Aurora School Board President Alex Arroyo and Cook County Circuit Court Judge Cecilia Horan.

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