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Mayoral candidates discuss LGBT issues
by Matt Simonette

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Homelessness, anti-transgender violence and aging resources were among the topics discussed as candidates vying in the crowded 2019 mayoral election weighed in on LGBT-related issues at a Jan. 19 forum at Second Presbyterian Church in the South Loop.

Among those candidates who took part in the forum were former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza; former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy; attorney and former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, the only openly LGBT candidate; attorneys John Kozlar and Jerry Joyce; state Rep. LaShawn Ford ( D-Chicago ); former Ald. Robert Fioretti; community organizer Amara Enyia; and former Chicago Public Schools Board President Gery Chico.

Newly-elected 5th District State Rep. Lamont Robinson—the first openly Black LGBT state representative in Illinois' history—introduced the event, noting that challenges remain for Chicago's LGBT residents even after they've made great strides, adding, "We have learned how to exercise our power at the polling place, and we will be out in force again as a community."

Most of the candidates overlapped in expressing commitments to LGBT-equality and -inclusion, with Preckwinkle opening by noting her support of the community, for example, and Vallas detailing how equity had been an "organic" facet of his career. Lightfoot said, "We are a community who speaks our values and has the opportunity to do so, and that is exactly the kind of leadership that I will take to the mayor's office."

Several spoke of ramping up the engagement between City Hall and LGBT community advocates, and all said they would be willing to bring aboard LGBT staffers, including members of the city's trans community. Ford, for example, promised that were he to be elected, the Mayor's Office would "lead the way in how to treat people and not discriminate." Mendoza additionally said that her administration would accept LGBT members as "their full self."

Fioretti said, "It boils down to hiring, training and sensitivity—we have to make it stick."

All candidates agreed that the city should continue engagement with the Getting to Zero initiative, launched in Dec. 2018, that if successful would eliminate all new HIV transmissions by 2030; Preckwinkle mentioned the strategy in her opening remarks.Lightfoot for her part called for better funding for Chicago Department of Public health resources, while Chico said that the city must do more to bring down the cost of Truvada, the oral medication that is used for pre-exposure prophylaxis and is central to Getting to Zero's strategy. Enyia called for auditing of the city's Federally Qualified Health Centers.

Mendoza, in her remark calling for increased PrEP access, added that it was time to stop thinking of HIV as "only a gay man's disease."

A number of candidates also pledged to support continuing Chicago's status as a "sanctuary city" for immigrants and refugees. Kozlar, who at 30 is the youngest person in the race, said that, "The first people we need to deport are our corrupt politicians … We need to have the CPD solving our problems. They don't need to be assisting ICE."

"Being undocumented should not be considered a crime," said McCarthy. But Enyia also called into question of how the city could be considered a "sanctuary city" when even its own residents are routinely profiled based on their race, something that transgender persons of color are routinely subjected to.

The forum was moderated by Imani Rupert-Gordon of Affinity Community Services; Kenny Martin-Ocasio of Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action ( ALMA ); Kim Hunt of Pride Action Tank; and Anthony Galloway of Equality Illinois. Sponsors included Affinity Community Services, ALMA, the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Equality Illinois Institute, LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Pride Action Tank and Windy City Times.

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