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Tunney supporters gather for fundraiser
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Matt Simonette

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Supporters of openly gay Ald. Tom Tunney gathered at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., for an April 24 fundraiser in support of his next run for office in 2015.

Tunney was introduced by Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug, who said that Tunney had "poured his heart and soul into Lakeview," and added that he worked as a server at Ann Sather in the 1980s, when the restaurant was at the heart of much of the city's AIDS activism.

"When nobody cared about people with AIDS 30 years ago, Tom Tunney did, and [he] was serving meals and providing housing for people who needed it most, and nothing has changed."

Among those in attendance at the event were Alds. James Cappleman and Deb Mell, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore, activist Marquell Smith, AIDS Foundation of Chicago President John Peller and attorney Jon Erickson.

"I look at where Halsted Street is, and where Lakeview is, and, not only are we the best gay neighborhood in the country, but we're also the best neighborhood in the Midwest," Tunney said. "We are on the map because of the people in this room."

Tunney reflected on the national political landscape as it evolved over the 1980s and 1990s, and pointed out that the LGBT community even faced challenges when Bill Clinton was in office.

"We as gay and lesbian people are part of what makes Chicago unique—we are part of the culture here," said Tunney. "Many of us came out of the closet during the AIDS crisis because we lost half our friends, and knew the government wasn't there for us at the beginning. … It's amazing, the challenges we had. [Clinton] had the triangulation strategy of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, and we are now redoing all of that. … I look at that as the reason so many of you in this room have helped me."

He also discussed Center on Halsted, and praised its capacity for assisting what he called the 'bookends' of LGBT society, teenagers and seniors.

Teenagers' struggles today, he said, "are no different from some of the struggles we faced. While the Center provides the services, I'm adamant about providing those services to other areas in the city, not just in Lakeview, and also supporting Broadway Youth Center, Howard Brown, the Crib and the Night Ministry."

Tunney joked about the new affordable housing project for seniors being located in Lakeview's old police station: "We'll have a field day with that—some of our seniors might have been incarcerated there, and might just end up as permanent residents."

The alderman emphasized that he, Cappleman and Mell continually make sure that the city's budget respects the priorities of the LGBT community. "Mayor Daley got it, and Mayor Emanuel gets it, but they won't get it, unless we continue to put pressure on elected officials."

Tunney also said there remains a need for more members of the LGBT community to enter politics, adding, "I'm there, and I'm going to stay there. … I'm still in it to make sure that in the next 5-10 years, we make it easier for every LGBT person not just to get married, but to also get a proper education and the proper job opportunities—in all, the proper respect for us as individuals."

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