Local LGBT leaders sat down Nov. 19 at Mary's Attic in Andersonville to reflect on a slew of recent astounding election victories.
Kim Hunt, executive director of Affinity Community Services; Randy Hannig, director of public policy for Equality Illinois; Debra Shore, commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District; and Lauren Peters, campaign manger for Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, discussed what went right Nov. 6 and how to keep that momentum.
"We really are at a turning point for the LGBT community," said Hannig. "We're definitely a force to be reckoned with, and there's no turning back now."
Panelists noted Tammy Baldwin's historic victory in Wisconsin, Sam Yingling's successful campaign to become Illinois' first out gay Rep. outside of Chicago and a number of national wins by pro-LGBT candidates.
But, Peters added, the success of LGBT candidates this November was not the result of their identities. It was a product of their platforms on constituent issues.
"[Baldwin's] not here to make history," Peters said. "She's definitely there to serve Wisconsinites."
Peters noted that Baldwin did not face anti-gay attacks, in large part because such attacks would have alienated voters.
And this election cycle was historic for other reasons, noted Hunt. Congress increasingly reflects the makeup of the United States, from LGBT people and women to people of color, Hunt said. Wins in four states on marriage equality votes reflect the growing support of many people of color for LGBT rights, she said.
"A lot of those wins come from people of color coming to the table and sometimes voting against what their ministers said," said Hunt.
The challenge going forward, panelists agreed, would be to keep the momentum.
Peters pointed the wins on marriage ballot measures as an example of grassroots efforts for change. Hannig added that research showed that most who support marriage equality now are people who changed their minds on the issue.
The Victory Fund and Equality Illinois hosted the event. Tressa Feher, chief of staff for the 46th Ward, moderated the panel, and Ald. James Cappleman introduced the event.