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Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame honors new inductees
by Matt Simonette

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LGBT community members and their supporters gathered at the Chicago History Museum Nov. 12 for the induction of the 2014 members of the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

Fifteen individuals and two organizations were inducted into the Hall of Fame, which is the country's only government-sponsored hall of game honoring the LGBT community.

"Twenty-four years ago, the idea of a gay and lesbian hall of fame was radical—a revolutionary concept," said Commission on Human Relations Chairman and Commissioner Mona Noriega. "Because being out could cost you your job and could cost you your family. The idea that a municipality, in this case the city of Chicago, would recognize that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals made substantive contributions to not only the [LGBT] community, but the city that we all shared, was, again, a radical concept."

Noriega added, "Many years later, today, we have elected officials, some of whom are being honored here tonight. … But that in no way means that we have achieved equity. We know that by the hard battle that we fought and won here in the state of Illinois. … We know that based on violence targeting members of our community, and we know it from the complaints of discrimination … that continue to keep our investigators from the Commission on Human Relations on the scene."

The LGBT individuals honored this year were Gerald Arpino, the late co-founder of the Joffrey Ballet; Jennifer Brier, a historian of both the LGBT communities and the AIDS epidemic; state Rep. Kelly Cassidy; Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of Personal PAC; Christina Kahrl, the nation's first openly transgender sports writer; Edward Mogul, lawyer, teacher, and president of the Illinois Academy of Criminology; Lisa Marie Pickens, co-founder and board president emeritus of Affinity Community Services; Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Commissioner Debra Shore; Dr. Ross A. Slotten, physician and biographer; and the late Bennet Williams, a community organizer.

The "Friends of the community"—non-LGBT-identifying individuals who have contributed to the betterment of the community—were Lucretia Clay-Ward, HIV/AIDS survivor, counselor, and advocate; state Sen. Heather A. Steans; and Clarence N. Wood, human-rights advocate and former Chicago Commission on Human Relations chairman.

The two organizations honored were Out & Proud in Chicago, for producing television documentaries about Chicago LGBT history and personages, and Silk Road Rising, a Chicago theater showcasing work addressing themes relevant to Silk Road peoples and their diaspora, including LGBT stories. Producers Daniel Andries and Alexandra Silets accepted for Out & Proud, and founders Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury accepted for Silk Road Rising.

The program was hosted by co-chairs Gary Chichester and Mary F. Morten, while the awards were presented by Gaylon Alcaraz and Danny Kopelson.

Other elected and appointed officials attending the ceremony included Deputy Mayor Steven Koch; Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair; 48th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Carol Ronen; state Rep. Greg Harris; and Alds. Deb Mell and Michele Smith.

Cook County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia also attended, calling the honorees a "great rainbow of people."

After the ceremony, Ed Mogul reflected on his recognition from the community. "I felt honored to be included and to be nominated by the prior inductees; it was something I was glad to be a part of. I was happy my friends from [Congregation] Or Chadash, the neighborhood and my activist life were here. It's amazed me how much the community has matured since I was first active."

Cassidy added that she found the event to be "surreal," adding, "Being in this kind of company is just amazing. It's something you'd think happens when you reach 'the end.' Still, I'm very proud, and I'm not done."

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