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Marriage Equality celebrated at the Field Museum
by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer
2014-05-30

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With only 48 hours left before same-sex couples throughout Illinois can enjoy the freedom to marry, jubilant events across the city have matched a growing sense of excitement and accomplishment.

At the Field Museum on May 29—surrounded by exhibits celebrating the evolution of both the natural world and humanity—people representing a cross-section of the LGBTQ community and their allies applauded some of the impassioned heroes who stepped up, spoke out, organized, lead and marched arm-in-arm in order to make June 1 a reality.

Additional photos at www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/photospreadthumbs.php .

Among the guests were Alderman Bob Fioretti ( 2nd Ward ), Rep. Kelly Cassidy's Community Outreach Coordinator and celebrated activist Pat Ewert, executive director of the Legacy Project Victor Salvo and representatives from GLAAD, including Kevin Boyer.

"What better place is there than this museum to celebrate equality, to celebrate acceptance, to celebrate inclusiveness and to celebrate such a historic moment?" Field Museum Director of Special Events, Tourism, Group Sales and Food Operations Megan Beckert told the cheering guests.

The Field Museum's Curator of North American Anthropology Alaka Wali displayed artifacts culled from a tiny fraction of the 24-million-strong collection of objects gathered from cultures across the world. A pair of two-headed vases from the Pueblo Indians represented the uniting of a couple who drink from each of the openings linked by a braided handle. They flanked a vibrant silk turban from the Maharashtra state in India and an ornate silver bridal headdress worn by the Miao people of Southern China. Each helped further illustrate that love and its expression through the institution of marriage is universal and not the purview of only one particular belief. "As an anthropologist, I strongly believe in promoting a respect for cultural diversity," Wali said. "Certainly marriage equality represents an enormous acceptance of diversity in culture."

The event was organized in part by the museum's recently created employee affinity group the Outfielders —a brain child of Communications Department Front-End Developer Graham Troyer-Joy and up to 30 of his colleagues. "This is the first event for us," Troyer-Joy said. "We want to disseminate knowledge about LGBTQ people and do more outreach like this."

Among the guests at the evening's festivities were Tom and Sue Laue. The parents of a 24-year-old gay son, the couple felt it was important to mark this moment in the state's history. "We hope someday our son will find someone that he can share his life with and make his love official with all the benefits that everyone else has," Mrs. Laue said. "There are a lot of people who still don't understand that this is not a choice, it's a biological fact of life."

"We all need to recognize and make the most of who we are and we need to love each other thoroughly," Mr. Laue added. "The only purpose on earth is to love. There's no room for anything else but taking care of each other. "

That theme was echoed by the evening's speaker—Windy City Media Group Publisher and Executive Editor Tracy Baim. "Marriage is not the end," she said. "It is among the things that I think we need to accomplish."

Baim looked back on the day 30 years ago in May when she began work in Chicago LGBT media with GayLife newspaper. "In 1984, many of us in this room know that what was really only looming and coming into focus was the AIDS crisis," she said. "The community in Chicago is forever impacted by the losses that we experienced during the 1980s through today."

By way of illustrating how deeply rooted in Chicago LGBTQ history the struggle for marriage has been and how much has changed in such a short period of time, Baim recalled the story of Nancy Davis and Toby Schneiter who were arrested in 1975 after a sit-in protesting their denial of a marriage license by the Cook County Clerk. "For their efforts, they were almost banned from the gay community because the gay community didn't approve of that style of activism and they thought it would hurt the movement for gay rights," Baim said. "Then people realized why it was so important. I first-hand witnessed families that would attend LGBT weddings and be forever changed about who we were."

Baim remembered the 2013 March on Springfield for Marriage Equality as a pivotal and wholly unique moment. "I definitely felt like the community across the state of Illinois was ready for a march on Springfield," she said. "There had never ever been a march on Springfield like that for LGBT rights, in fact for almost any issue, there had never been a gathering like that."

In closing, Baim challenged the audience to become similarly engaged in issues such as the rampant homelessness of LGBTQ youth across the city. "There are too few beds for the LGBTQ youth that need them in the city of Chicago," she said. "But it isn't just about shelter. Over the next few weeks, we are going to release a detailed report about how people in this community can get engaged in this issue in a way that's meaningful to youth. It's about respect and dignity and listening to them."

Fioretti told Windy City Times that he is taking Baim's call-to-action very seriously. "It's unacceptable," he said. "We need to address the issues of homelessness and human trafficking right away. We need to put an end to it."

For now, couples like Derrick Sorles and Michael Snell who run bestgaychicago.com and have been together for 15 years reveled in the night's toast of historic days to come. "As a young boy, I never thought I would see this in my lifetime," Snell said. "It's just amazing."

Video by Jean Albright:

Windy City Times: Tracy Baim at Field Museum marriage equality event www.youtube.com/watch .


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