Norma Reyes, who came out as a lesbian during an emotional speech at the 2010 Equality Illinois Justice for All gala, has died. She was 56. No cause of death has been reported.
Reyes was deputy chief of staff for Mayor Daley from 2001-2003 and commissioner of business affairs and consumer protection for the city starting in 2004. She retired in 2011.
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, offered condolences: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Norma Reyes, a woman whose vision of a just society extending equal rights to all of us infused every aspect of her life."
Windy City Times covered Reyes' EI speech in its Jan. 28, 2010 edition: "Speeches were generally brief, with the highlight being a moving tribute by MC Norma Reyes to her late partner. The couple fought a sudden, brief and devastating battle with cancerand the medical and financial establishment[in 2009] and the presentation emphasized the imperative for establishing full marriage equality and civil rights for the LGBT community."
Longtime lesbian activist Vernita Gray said that Reyes had never fully recovered from the sudden death of her partner Joan, a situation complicated by the fact that Joan's family treated Reyes so badly. "This is such a loss," Gray said.
"Norma's story resonated strongly with the audience, and we wish she could have seen the day when her vision of the freedom to marry is realized in Illinois, as it will be very soon," Cherkasov said. "Everyone who knew her felt her passion for justice. She was an exemplary public servant in the city of Chicago, and she also served the LGBT community with equal fervor. We extend our condolences to her family and friends. We will miss her."
"Norma was a treasure and contributed much to the City of Chicago," stated Rick Garcia, policy director for The Civil Rights Agenda. "She will be deeply, deeply missed. For years Norma was always available to me with guidance and support in our LGBT rights work. The LGBT community has suffered a great loss."
The Chicago Tribune reported that Reyes "worked as a Cook County assistant state's attorney for nine years before becoming chief assistant corporation counsel and later the deputy corporation counsel for the city's Law Department."