Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker hosted an LGBTQ community meet-and-greet Nov. 29 at Sidetrack.
Illinois House Assistant Majority Leader Greg Harris announced his endorsement of Pritzker at the event. Pritzker has also received endorsements from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the Illinois AFL-CIO and more than 20 other unions.
Community activist/The Morten Group President Mary Morten spoke about Prtitzker's support of progressive causes, including LGBTQ equality, ahead of an LGBTQ-focused video featuring a gay couple who have known Pritzker and his wife Mary Kathryn "M.K." for years.
TRUST Collective-Chicago member and former Board Chair of Equality Illinois Dalila Fridi noted that 2018 will mark the first time she will be voting for a governor ( she recently became a U.S. citizen ) and urged attendees to support Pritzker due to his long-time record as an ally to the community. Fridi explained the importance of the 2018 elections in terms of progressive causes since many groups, including the LGBTQ community, are getting attacked daily by the Executive Branch in Washington D.C. She introduced Sidetrack Co-owner and Equality Illinois Co-founder Art Johnston and thanked him for his years of work to ensure that LGBTQ Illinoisans are protected under the law from discrimination on all fronts.
"I am thrilled that we finally have a reason to be hopeful about the future of our state." said Johnston. "I do not say this lightly because I have been doing this for a long time."
Johnston spoke about Harris' record of achievements on behalf of the LGBTQ community. He noted Harris' predecessor Larry McKeon ( the first openly gay member of the Illinois General Assembly ) and the support the Pritzkers provided during the early years when McKeon and others were fighting for LGBTQ inclusive laws in Illinois.
Harris noted that it is easy to find friends when things are going well but real friends are the ones who offer support when things are not going well. He said he has known Pritzker for 20 years and throughout that time Pritzker and his family have been unsung LGBTQ allies even when it was unpopular to do so. Harris explained that it was Pritzker's influence that secured the last two votes for marriage equality. He spoke about Pritzker's support of early childhood education, reforming the criminal justice system, NARAL, the Muslim community when the first ban was put in place by the Trump Administration ( he went to O'Hare Airport to show his support ), condemning genocide in countries worldwide and countless other progressive causes. Harris said his endorsement of Pritzker was due to his proven track record of success on many fronts.
Pritzker praised Harris for the work he has done on the legislative front to advance everyone's civil rights. He noted openly gay suburban state Rep. Sam Yingling's ( who was in the room ) is also supporting his campaign. Pritzker spoke about his mother's influence leading him to become an LGBTQ activist because it was a part of the fabric of their home while he was growing up.
"The fact that my wife and I hosted a gay wedding ( that was featured on the video played at the event ) at our home 20 years ago before it was legally [available for same-sex couples] was because they are our friends, nothing more or less," said Pritzker. "If you have friends and they are in love and want to get married they should be able to get married."
Pritzker called out Gov. Bruce Rauner for his silence when the white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia and said it should not even be a question that every elected official should denounce hateful acts when they occur. He said the state needs to fully fund HIV prevention services, resources to help LGBTQ homeless youth, train law enforcement to respect transgender people, address bullying in schools and many other social justice issues. Pritzker reminded the packed room that when Rauner was running for governor in 2014 he said he would have vetoed the marriage equality bill.
He explained that if elected he would involve the LGBTQ community as a partner to get things done. Pritzker said he feels an obligation to get big things done and that is what he promised the crowd he would do as governor.