The Chicago City Council is expected to vote on a resolution to encourage support for LGBT professional athletes May 8, after the measure passed out of committee.
More than a dozen community leaders, athletes, politicians and service providers testified in favor of the resolution before the city's Committee on Human Relations May 7.
The resolution would call on professional sports commissioners to publicly express support for LGBT athletes and to sanction athletes who use anti-gay slurs.
The resolution, introduced April 10, would be sent to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, Football Commissioner Roger Goodell, Basketball Commissioner David Stern, Hockey Commissioner Gary Bettman and Soccer Commissioner Don Garber.
Ald. Joe Moore, committee chairman, introduced the measure at the urging of The Last Closet, an LGBT sports organization that successfully pushed for the passage of a similar resolution in San Francisco. He said he hopes the Chicago resolution can inspire action in other cities.
"Our youth need gay sports heroes," said Moore.
"It is fitting that Chicago, as a progressive LGBT-friendly city, that hosts several professional teams, assumes a leadership role on this important issue," he added later.
Fallon Fox, the first out transgender MMA fighter, recounted her own experience coming out earlier this year.
"After I came out, I was able to talk, as I am now, about the painful reality of being an athlete that feels she must remain in the closet and the nightmare of feeling she has no support, Fox said. "I am also able to talk about how I am just as valuable and worthy of respect as any other woman on the face of the earth. I am now visible. My visibility is needed in our society and should be used as a model of acceptance and tolerance."
Expressing support for the resolution were openly gay Alds. Tom Tunney and James Cappleman. Other backers included Alds. Michele Smith, Scott Waguespack and Roberto Maldonado.
Mona Noriega, chairman of the Commission on Human Relations, said her support for the resolution came down to a value of human dignity and respect for civil rights.
"Change is not easy, we all understand that," she said. "But we also know from history that recognizing the diversity of the athletes has only expanded the audience who love professional sports. We have seen this with the inclusion of African Americans and with the inclusion of women athletes."
Fawn Yacker, project director of The Last Closet, argued that out professional athletes could have a profound impact on LGBTQ youth.
"Athletes are our national heroes and slowly but surely, the LGBT community is gathering their own," Yacker said.
Also throwing weight behind the proposal was Dan Lobring, senior director of communications for Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Lobring cited the team's past support on LGBT issues and said his club supports the resolution.
Local transgender activists and ESPN writer/editor Christina Kahrl noted that professional sports have tended to embrace LGBT people like herself off the field.
"If people in sports working off the field can be out, then people on the field should enjoy the same freedom and same right to do their job," Kahrl said.
Vincent Pryor, owner of Chicago eatery Fatty Burgers & More, recounted his days as a Division I football player at Texas Christian University (TCU), where his secrecy about his sexual orientation held him back on the playing field.
"It pits a dark hole inside you," Pryor said. "You feel empty on the inside, and I remember thinking to myself, 'What's the point?'"
Pryor said that after he came out at TCU and his teammates and coaches supported him, he was able to give 100 percent on the field for the first time.
Consideration of the resolution comes just days after Jason Collins, a center with the Washington Wizards, made history as the first professional male athlete in a major sport to come out as a gay.
On May 7, committee members adopted an updated resolution to reflect that news.
Of more than a dozen who spoke on the resolution, no one rose to testify against the measure. The resolution passed with unanimous support.
It is expected to face a vote on May 8.
Links to video coverage by Tracy Baim of testimonies at a Chicago City Council hearing May 7, 2013, on a resolution supporting LGBT athletes:
Ald. Joe Moore here: www.youtube.com/watch .
Fallon Fox of The Last Closet here: www.youtube.com/watch .
Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com writer here: www.youtube.com/watch .
Vincent Pryor at The Last Closet Chicago City Council hearing here: www.youtube.com/watch .
Fawn Yacker here: www.youtube.com/watch .
Mona Noriega on LGBT athletes at Chicago City Council hearing here: www.youtube.com/watch .
Additional photo spread here: www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/photospreadthumbs.php .
Wednesday, May 8, news update here: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/City-Council-adopts-LGBT-sports-resolution/42718.html .