Victory Fund CEO and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner were among those on hand June 3 as the LGBT advocacy Equality Illinois kicked off June with its annual Pride Brunch at Venue West, 221 N. Paulina St.
Numerous community members, elected and appointed officials and political candidates were on hand for the event. Among those in attendance were Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and his running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton; Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot; Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs; Illinois state representative candidate Lamont Robinson; Metropolitan Water Reclamation District ( MWRD ) Commissioner Debra Shore; Chicago Ald. James Cappleman; Berwyn Ald. Scott Lennon; Berwyn school board member Julia McAleer-Forte; Berwyn Township Trustee Joseph Johnston; Cook County Board candidate Kevin Morrison; Aurora School Board Member Alex Arroyo; aldermanic candidate Andre Vazquez; MWRD board candidate Marcelina Garcia; and Chicago Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Mona Noriega.
Rauner was introduced by his wife Diana, and noted that he had signed all bills that had come before him advancing LGBT equality; he also mentioned that his first act as a justice of the peace after becoming governor was officiating at the same-sex wedding of one of his staff.
"These issues are not partisan issues," Rauner said. "They are people issues."
As he has done at numerous LGBT events during his time in office, Emanuel framed LGBT rights in the larger context of the city's overall diversity and welcomeness, promising, "We're not giving an inch on the gains we've made. This city will remain a 'Trump-free' zone."
Parker, who was the first openly lesbian mayor of a major U.S. city, called for pushes to bring out younger voters. She also called on more awareness surrounding issues affecting the transgender community, something that Victory Fund directly impacts in its support of transgender candidates across the nation.
"Too many Americans do not understand what it means to be transgender in America, and that needs to change," she said.
Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson also spoke at the event, and Hilary Wirtz of Breakthru Beverages presented the organization with a check for $55,000. Among the honorees in the program were attorney Nicole Bashor, who has long served on the board of Equality Illinois PAC, and HIV/AIDS advocate and service provider Saul Avina Jr.