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Gail Morse: On a 'Personal' Mission
by Amy Wooten

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Out lesbian co-chair of Personal PAC's upcoming 14th Annual Awards Luncheon, Gail Morse, thinks everyone should be an activist.

After all, she said, issues such as a woman's right to choose impact everyone—even the gay and lesbian community—in some way.

The Annual Awards Luncheon, which takes place Nov. 5, honors pro-choice activists and supporters. The event is the largest fundraiser for Personal PAC, a bipartisan statewide organization that supports pro-choice candidates for office. Marcie Love, who founded Personal PAC at her kitchen table in 1978, will receive the Irving B. Harris Spirit of Choice Award for her activism. ( Tracy Fischman and Faith Pennick will receive Pro-Choice Leadership Awards. ) This year, the special guest of the event is actress and activist Kathleen Turner.

'She's great because [ Turner's ] not only a well-known name, but she's also a passionate advocate for women's and children's health,' Morse said.

Personal PAC started as an organization that combatted anti-choice legislation. 'As it's become more successful, it has been able to become more proactive and supportive legislation and candidates,' said Morse, who serves on the organization's board.

Morse is very active in the community, in addition to practicing tax law as a partner at Jenner & Block. She is active in the Women's Bar Association of Illinois and serves on the board of directors for The Women's Treatment Center, Vital Bridges and The Illinois Women's Institute for Leadership. She is also a commissioner on the Cook County Commission on Women's Issues.

As someone who is so active, Morse doesn't understand the complacency so many people have when it comes to political issues.

'We will lose the right to choose if we don't have an organization like Personal PAC out there,' she said.

One only needs to look at what happened in Aurora over the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic, she provided as an example. According to Morse, apathy and the belief that a women's right to choose can't be taken away simply because it's 2007 is a dangerous way to think. The right to choose, she feels, requires 'constant vigilance.'

'As a lesbian, it's not only that I'm a woman and this is important to me from a health and choice perspective—these are the same people out there who say gay people don't have a right to exist,' she said. 'Or that we shouldn't be recognized in any formal manner.'

Morse, who grew up in the '70s, was inspired by the women's liberation movement. 'We thought that was all behind us, but it's not,' she said.

As she grew up, Morse was surrounded by activism. Her aunt, who she considers her political mentor, was a union organizer in southern California. She can't remember a time when she wasn't an activist, which is just one more reason why she can't understand widespread apathy.

'Politics affects everything we do from the moment we wake up, to the moment we go to bed,' Morse said. 'If you think that it doesn't, you're naïve.'

'Government is supposed to do what it is supposed to do, which is to provide safety,' she said. 'It's not supposed to be in my bedroom.'

Personal PAC hopes to see a lot of support from the gay and lesbian community at the luncheon. 'This issue impacts us not just as gays and lesbian, not just as women, but also as individuals,' said Morse.

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