Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner set aside their continuing differences over the state of the state Feb. 3 as each presented welcoming remarks, as did Rauner's wife Diana, at Equality Illinois' 2018 fundraiser at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.
It was Rauner's first time attending the gala, though he has partaken in several meetings with Equality Illinois officials. The event was sold out, with nearly 1,500 attendees, according to Equality Illinois.
In his remarks, Emanuel spoke at length about Chicago's status as a sanctuary city he said was welcome to all, saying that city residents "are on a journey together for inclusiveness."
He added, "We will never undermine the values of inclusion."
Diana Rauner praised Equality Illinois' work promoting "tolerance, equality and respect and dignity for every individual."
Gov. Rauner noted, "Justice, fairness, equal opportunity, equal treatment under the lawthese are the principles that make America the beacon of hope for the entire world. Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for showing us how to treat each other with dignity and respect. Diana and I believe that fairness is in our DNA in Illinois."
Among the speakers who discussed their engagements with Equality Illinois were Tara Bell-Janowick of the Rainbow Cafe youth center in Carbondale, who said that, for her organization, "The vision of expanding through southern Illinois is being realized through our partnership with Equality Illinois."
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson spoke about being an ally to the LGBT community, noting that the time "feels heavy, but we will not give up. We will not give in."
Grayson Alexander, a Loyola University freshman who was the first openly transgender page in the state senate, recalled being inspired to become politically active by the legislative push to make it easier for transgender Illinoisans to change the gender-markers on their birth certificates.
"I no longer wanted to watch," Alexander said. "I wanted to fight. … With you all at my back, I can truly be free."
Equality Illinois co-founder Art Johnston remarked that, when he helped form the organization in 1991, "I could barely envision that I could look out on a room of nearly 1,500 individuals … all gathered to demand full equality for LGBTQ Illinoisans."
But Johnston added, "This past year has reminded us how much we need each other to continue the fight forward."
Equality Illinois' CEO Brian Johnson spoke about the diversity of the LGBT community and denounced an anti-trans, xenophobic and racist campaign advertisement circulated by anti-LGBT Republican gubernatorial candidate state Rep. Jeanne Ives the previous day.
"You know that Jeanne Ives and those like her are flat-out wrong," he said.
Camilla Taylor, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, joined Johnson to present James Bennett, her former colleague, with the 2018 Freedom Award. She especially praised Bennett's work chairing the Illinois Unites for Marriage Coalition.
"He brought us together," Taylor said. "He never lost optimism."
Personal PAC President and CEO Terry Cosgrove presented the Business Leadership Award to Planned Parenthood of Illinois' President and CEO, Jennifer Welch, and her staff. He noted that organization's commitment to a wide spectrum of healthcare services and, like Johnson, spoke of Ives' ad from the day before, which also mocked women who have had abortions.
"Let there be no doubt that the offensive ad that Jeanne Ives launched last night is an attack on all of us," Cosgrove said.
Transgender media personality and LGBT activist Jazz Jennings was presented with the 2018 Spotlight Award. In remarks, she expressed gratitude to her family, noting that, "They have gotten me down a path of unconditional love and allowed me to live my life authentically."
Other presenters and speakers included Affinity Community Services Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon; Equality Illinois board members Sheila Simon and Kevin Hauswirth; Board Chair Anthony D'Amato; Director of Civic Engagement Anthony Galloway; and activist Reyna Ortiz, who helped present Jennings her award. Greg Jones and Deralynn O'Connell of United Airlines, the event's principal corporate sponsor, also appeared.
Among the elected and political officialsand candidates for elected officeattending and participating in the annual parade of politicians were U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Robin Kelly, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Brad Schneider; U.S. House candidates Sol Flores and Marie Newman; gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Daniel Biss, businessman J.B. Pritzker, activist Tio Hardiman, school superintendent Bob Daiber and physician Robert Marshall; Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza; Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs; Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White; Lieutenant Governor candidates Juliana Stratton, Litesa Wallace and Ra Joy; Attorney General candidates Jesse Ruiz, Scott Drury, Nancy Rotering, Renato Mariotti, Aaron Goldstein, Sharon Fairley, Kwame Raoul, and Pat Quinn; Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Candidate for Cook County Board President Bob Fioretti; Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas; Cook County Board of Commissioners candidate Don Miller; Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia; Alds. Deb Mell, Scott Waguespack, Pat O'Connor, Tom Tunney and James Cappleman; Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer; Cook County Assesor Joseph Berrios; Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown; Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Mariyana Spyropoulos and Commissioners Debra Shore and Josina Morita; state Reps. Ann Williams, Sara Feigenholtz, Sam Yingling and Greg Harris; Illinois Senate President John Cullerton; Chicago Commission on Human Relations Commissioner Mona Noriega; Cook County Commissioner on Social Innovation Marc Loveless; and Judges Cecelia Horan, Robert Harris and Myron Mackoff in additional to many other candidates for judge and other offices.