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Vernita Gray: A community remembers

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"Today we mourn the passing of a fearless woman who spent her life fighting for equality and civil rights. Vernita Gray was an inspiration to all who crossed her path, from President Obama who knew her by name to the victims of violence she comforted and the young people for whom she was a fierce advocate. Her legacy can be felt in the many institutions she supported and by every LGBT couple in Illinois who is now free to marry the person they love. My thoughts and prayers are with her wife Pat Ewert, her family, and the community of friends who loved her so dearly."—Mayor Rahm Emanuel

See many more archive photos at the link: .

Full obituary, Vernita Gray, longtime activist, dies 2014-03-19, at the link: .

"Vernita Gray was one of the most energetic pioneers of LGBT rights in Illinois. Her lifetime of service, including 18 years in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office helping LGBT crime survivors, helped pave the way for a more just and equal society. Her passing will leave a hole in our hearts, but her legacy and tireless efforts have brought about the change she believed in and fought for everyday of her life. My thoughts and prayers are with her wife Pat Ewert, her family, friends, and the community who lost a strong advocate."—Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

"Vernita Gray was a passionate and driven advocate for equality in Illinois. She recognized that no one should have to wait for equal rights when it comes to love. She fought for what she believed in and made a difference for people across Illinois. "Vernita was a leader in the fight for marriage equality, and a part of the anti-violence movement whose poetry resonated with so many, including President Barack Obama. "While Vernita was with us she helped spread love and strength and we are all blessed to have known and learned from her. "I join the people of Illinois in offering thoughts and prayers to her wife Pat Ewert and their family. Vernita Gray will continue to inspire all those she touched during her time here on earth and we are forever grateful."—Gov. Pat Quinn

"The President extends his condolences to the family and friends of Vernita Gray, especially her widow Patricia Ewert. Vernita led a life committed to achieving justice and peace for all Illinoisians, including the LGBT community. Her legacy is an Illinois that is more just and fair, and we are all the better for her efforts. She will be missed."—Shin Inouye, Director of Specialty Media, White House Office of Communications

"It's fitting that Vernita Gray and her partner Pat became the first gay couple to wed in Illinois. Vernita's entire life was spent blazing a trail. I was honored to stand with her at last year's March on Springfield for Marriage Equality. Chicago's LGBT community has lost a dedicated advocate, but Vernita will rest in peace having made a real and lasting difference in the lives of gays and lesbians in Illinois and across the nation."—Sen. Richard Durbin

"Vernita's tireless work on behalf of the LGBT community inspired me to be an advocate for equality. She will be dearly missed, but I know that her passion for justice will continue to inspire advocates for generations to come. My sincerest condolences go out to her wife, family and friends."—U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley

"Vernita Gray was a remarkable woman, a groundbreaker and pioneer who fought tirelessly for equality for the LGBT community. She inspired so many people, including me, and will be missed greatly. She and her wife Pat Ewert were pioneers of same sex marriage in Illinois, and their love touched everyone around them. Vernita will always be remembered for her strength, advocacy, compassion and joy of life."—U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky

"It's hard to remember a major event in my life that didn't somehow include Vernita. She has been a constant through so many changes. What's been so striking to me over these last weeks as we all said goodbye was how many people she held so close and how many of us felt that same sense of her constancy in our lives. She leaves a huge hole in so many hearts but the way she lived, and faced her death, inspires me to emulate that generosity of spirit she embodies."—State Rep. Kelly Cassidy

"Vernita was larger than life, and she was threaded through every chapter of my experience with the LGBT community. From her fierce advocacy in the state's attorney's office to teaching about tolerance in schools, she was a force to be reckoned with. Even when she was very sick, she was one of the strongest women I knew. I will miss her."—State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz

"I was saddened to learn of Vernita's passing. She was a tenacious, creative and compassionate advocate and mentor who contributed immeasurably to the LGBT community and the cause of justice everywhere. As much as I miss her presence in the community, I'm happy that her commitment to her wife Pat could be recognized during her lifetime not only by her friends and family, but also by the law of this state. My thoughts at this time are with Pat and all who loved Vernita."—State Sen. Heather Steans

"Vernita Gray was a trailblazer who inspired many with her selfless commitment to equality and civil rights. Vernita effected change until the end with her final victory for marriage equality. I'm so grateful Vernita's loving relationship with Pat could be recognized by our great state before she passed."—Cook County Clerk David Orr

"Vernita was a very special person who had a tremendous impact on the lives of LGBT people of all ages in Chicago and beyond. Her warmth and generosity along with her unbending tenacity in working with government on behalf of her very special interests separate her from so many others who championed similar causes. Along with many others in the community, I am saddened by her loss, and offer her wife Pat, her family and all of the LGBT community my deepest sympathy - her vibrancy and verve will be deeply missed." —Ald. Harry Osterman

"For me Vernita was the heart and soul of our community. I feel blessed to have known her and will miss her dearly."—Ald. Deb Mell

"Today, we remember and celebrate the life of Vernita Gray, who was a pioneer in the Chicago LGBT movement. I was fortunate to have worked with her for thirty years and she had a positive effect on everyone she met. Equality in Illinois would not be where it is today without her activism and leadership." —Ald. Tom Tunney

"Vernita was a fearless visionary and could often see what eluded everyone else. She lived what she believed, that she and all of us belong everywhere and no one can stop us from living our lives freely and with love. She saw herself as a hippy and loved all her tie-dye wear. But her real gift was a true belief in the power of peace and love that reached beyond boundaries of race, culture or class. Social injustice— when presented—was called out immediately; she could do it with finesse, she could do it loud, or she could use her poet words to inspire us all that social injustice would not, would not, define us. She had a special place in her heart for youth and she was drawn to them as they were drawn to her. Like a pied piper her entourage wanted only to bathe in the light of her love. We have all suffered a profound loss, whether you depended on her to help laugh your way out of life's challenges, needed that ass whipping you would not allow anyone else to mete, or you had temporarily lost your way and she helped guide you out. She held many hands, saved many lives, and demanded that we be the best we could be. My children and I were especially blessed to have shared a love that will forever guide us."—Commissioner Mona Noriega, Chicago Commission on Human Relations

"It's very difficult to really put into words all that Vernita meant to me. Knowing her for almost 30 years, I met her just as I was getting quite active in the LGBT community. She was on a very short list of best friends, confidantes and partners-in-trouble-making and partying. I'm hoping that some of her graciousness and eternal optimism has rubbed off on me."— Mary Morten, The Morten Group

"Vernita was a powerful voice, a pioneer activist and early advocate for our community. She was an unashamedly out and proud African American, queer woman organizing and providing strength and support for others in a time when most LGBT people could not even begin to imagine coming out. The only reason we have non-discrimination statues and marriage equality in Illinois, why many of us live out and proud and many young people now don't hesitate to come out, is because of people like Vernita.

"Vernita helped form the LGBT population in Chicago into a community. She will remain a pillar of the LGBT community and the greater Chicago community. We all stand tall and have been able to accomplish incredible things together because we stand on her shoulders. All of our lives are the better for the way Vernita lived her life. Her impact on our community and country are immeasurable. "I will always be in awe of Vernita Gray. She will continue to be a powerful role model for me and our community on how to live one's life with pride, courage, determination, honesty and empathy. Her life was a blessing to us all."v—Laura Ricketts, co-owner, Chicago Cubs and founder, LPAC

"She never grew cynical or jaded at any part of the movement. When the young and energetic 15-yearold came in with a million different ideas, she would just sit back and ask, 'Okay, how are you going to do it?' She was in the movement for 40 years, and she would always be ready for the next thing—often before the rest of us knew what that 'next thing' was."—James Bennett, Lambda Legal

Obituary and further coverage at the link .

Video at the link: .

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