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Illinois

Chicago mayor describes Roe ruling as ‘gut punch’

Lori Lightfoot is first Black lesbian elected to run major U.S. city

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Photo courtesy of the Lori Lightfoot campaign)

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade was a “gut punch.”

“It wasn’t a surprise,” she told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview. “This had been a 50-year quest for people who don’t want to recognize our rights and want to take us back to 1950s America, when our community was pushed very decidedly into the closet because we didn’t have protections — we certainly didn’t have marriage. That was inconceivable back then.”

“We didn’t have protections on employment, on housing and the basic rights of citizenship that we’ve come to really embrace and expect as Americans,” added Lightfoot.

Lightfoot in 2019 became the first Black lesbian woman elected mayor of a major U.S. city.

She noted Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in the Roe decision said the Supreme Court should reconsider its decision in the Obergefell, Lawrence and Griswold cases that guarantee marriage equality and the rights to private, consensual sex and access to contraception respectively.

“Fuck Clarence Thomas,” said Lightfoot on Sunday when she spoke at Chicago Pride.

“I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty sad for all the reasons that you would expect,” she told the Blade on Monday. “It was still inconceivable that we are now living in an America where all of us who have been empowered to teach and live our own authentic lives are now at risk in this country by the stroke of a pen and a radicalized right-wing majority on the court with seemingly little regard of the consequences.”

Lightfoot said the ruling’s “immediate impact” will be on women in “red states” and “states that have trigger laws” that ban abortion. Lightfoot added women of color and low-income women will be disproportionately impacted.

“You got to play the long game here,” she said. “Clarence Thomas clearly signaled what his intent is, which is when you talk about reconsidering Griswold, that’s the right to contraception access. They talk about reconsidering Lawrence in Texas. We know what that is. Well really, are gay men going to be in a position where they have to worry about cops breaking into their bedroom and try to haul them off to jail by engaging in a natural act of intimacy between consenting adults?”

“We are very much in the target, and the sights of this right-wing mob that feels like the only way that they can exercise their power is by taking ours,” added Lightfoot.

‘We’re going to respect your rights’

Lightfoot in May announced a “Justice for All Pledge” after Politico published a leaked draft of the Roe decision.

Her administration and the Chicago Department of Public Health pledged an additional $500,000 to “support access to reproductive healthcare for Chicagoans and patients seeking safe, legal care from neighboring states that have or ultimately will ban abortion if the Supreme Court decides to strike down Roe v. Wade, as outlined in the leaked decision.” The “Justice for All Pledge,” among other things, reaffirms Chicago will “fight for the rights of all people regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, or sexual orientation.”  

“We will fight to ensure that no person will be attacked, assaulted, bullied, or discriminated against because of who they are, the choices they make regarding their bodily autonomy, or who they love,” reads the pledge.

“We have to be a beacon of light and hope across the country and particularly in the Midwest region,” said Lightfoot. 

She also encouraged LGBTQ people from Florida, Texas and other states that have passed homophobic and/or transphobic laws to consider moving to Chicago.

“We’re going to respect your rights,” said Lightfoot. “We’re going to allow you to live in an environment where you can live your true, authentic life without the worry of some radicalized right-wing legislature cutting off your rights. People have to start making choices.”

Lightfoot also challenged corporations to do more to support LGBTQ rights and their LGBTQ employees.

“Corporations have to start making choices,” she said. “All those nice little value statements on a corporate website, if you value your employees and their rights, you cannot be situated in states that are attacking everyone in our community.” 

“When you look at the fact that many of these states are attacking children and their families, that tells you there’s no floor, there’s no floor to which they will sink,” added Lightfoot. “It’s open season on us and we’ve got to respond.”

Mayor lacked role models ‘that looked like me’

Lightfoot lives in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood with her wife, Amy Eshleman, and their daughter.

She told the Blade that she met a transgender teenager from downstate Illinois during Chicago Pride. Lightfoot said she hugged her and her parents and she “just felt such joy.”

She said she “didn’t see any role models that looked like me” and “didn’t see a lot of gay and lesbian leaders on a national level or even at the local level” when she was younger. Lightfoot told the Blade in response to a question about how she feels about being the first Black lesbian mayor of a major U.S. city that there are now “so many more of us who are living our authentic lives.”

“One of the greatest gifts that we can give is to say to those young people, you’re going to be great,” she said. “Be who you are, embrace, embrace your authentic life. Because there’s always going to be a home for you. There’s going to be a village, a community that’s going to be supportive. That’s one of the things I think the most powerful statement that I can make as mayor, using my platform as mayor of the third largest city, to say to our young people, you’re always going to have a home here.”

Lightfoot earlier this month announced she is running for re-election in 2023.

Crime and the response to protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 are among the issues over which Lightfoot has faced criticism.

She referenced efforts to make “real meaningful, permanent progress on public safety that we are doing here in our city against a lot of different headwinds” and economic development in low-income neighborhoods as two of her administration’s accomplishments. Lightfoot said she decided to run for a second term because “the work’s not done.”

“We have been through a lot, as every major city in the country has in these last three years, but we’ve persevered and continued to do really good work on behalf of the people and made a lot of progress,” she said. 

“I liken it to being a gardener,” added Lightfoot. “You till the soil, you plant the seeds, you want to be around to reap the harvest. And I want to make sure that the work that we put in place, that those roots are deep and strong and they continue to bear fruit for years and years to come, long after I fade from the scene.” 

Lesbian super PAC again endorses Lightfoot

LPAC endorsed Lightfoot’s initial mayoral campaign. The super PAC that supports lesbian candidates has once again backed her. 

“I am just grateful that they are ready to re-up for round two,” said Lightfoot.

“When we are present in those corridors of power, we bring a life of experience that is different than traditionally the straight white men that have populated these corridors of power,” she added. “We show up and we show up importantly for our community and that is critically important.”

LPAC Executive Director Lisa Turner in a statement to the Blade praised Lightfoot.

“When I think of the Black LGBTQ leaders serving in office like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, I am filled with pride about the work LPAC has done to uplift women and support their campaigns,” said Turner. “We were the first national organization and LGBTQ organization to endorse Mayor Lightfoot in 2019, and we are proud to be the first again as she seeks re-election. LPAC’s unwavering support shows our commitment to not solely electing more LGBTQ women to office, but to elect LGBTQ women who represent the full diversity of our community.”

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Illinois

Ill. governor, Durbin condemn anti-LGBTQ extremism

Bakery outside Chicago vandalized earlier this month

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Illinois)

Following the escalation of anti-LGBTQ attacks against a bakery northwest of Chicago last weekend, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip, and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed to the Los Angeles Blade their concerns over the rise of hate and extremism in America. 

On July 23, a man was arrested and charged with a hate crime after allegedly smashing the windows of UpRising Bakery and Café and spray-painting offensive messages on the building in Lake in the Hills, Ill.

After announcing plans to host a family-friendly drag show, the establishment was targeted with a campaign of harassment that, ahead of the vandalism, included an incident where a bag of feces was left outside with a note proclaiming, “pedophiles work here.”  

“No one should have to live in fear for being who they are,” Durbin told the Blade. “Yet we continue to see extremists target minority groups, including the LGBTQ community, with threatening, hateful acts.” 

More broadly, Durbin said domestic extremism and hate is among the biggest threats facing our country.

“Groups like the Proud Boys are weaponizing violent extremism to target communities, traumatize our country, and leave unimaginable pain and fear in their wake,” he said. “That’s why we must finally pass my Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which would put serious federal resources toward combatting these threats with research, training, and investigations.”

Durbin, who chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, first introduced the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act in 2017 and reintroduced it this year with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). A companion bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) passed the House on May 18, but Senate Republicans filibustered the legislation on May 26. 

“I am deeply troubled by the empowerment of extremism we’re experiencing at this moment in history,” Pritzker told the Blade. “But Illinois will continue to fight against it at every turn.”

“I welcome every effort by LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations to pursue additional policy at the state and federal level to ensure this nation is safe for all who call it home,” he added.

Pritzker said the “disturbing” attacks against UpRising Bakery are wholly inconsistent with “the Illinois I know.” He pointed to an incident in which a homeowner’s Pride flag was stolen and replaced with an American flag and the entire neighborhood decided to decorate their homes and yards with rainbow flags in a show of solidarity. 

The state’s record on human rights came into sharp relief with developments over the border in Indiana, whose legislature convened a special session this week to consider legislation that would outlaw most abortions and permit criminal prosecution of women who lie to terminate their pregnancies. 

Asked about these developments, Durbin took the opportunity to draw a stark contrast. Unlike Republican legislatures, he said, which are “hellbent on instituting draconian restrictions at the expense of women and people who rely on” healthcare including abortion, Illinois — a “safe haven surrounded by states with increasingly restricted access” — plans to hold a special session to “bolster abortion protections.” 

At the federal level, Durbin said, “I’m committed to ensuring that our state remains open to those seeking care, which is why I cosponsored the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act.” Durbin was joined by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in introducing the bill, which was defeated by Senate Republicans earlier this month. 

“We are a hub for the heartland on reproductive rights,” Pritzker said, “and so long as I’m governor, we always will be. I’m incredibly disturbed by the attacks on healthcare freedoms at our borders, so I’ve directed my administration to do everything in our power to double down on Illinois’ support and protections and I’ve asked that the Biden administration do the same.”

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Illinois

Aurora, Illinois revokes Pride parade permit

“We’re not giving up. Our position has been misrepresented, and we’re making every effort to keep the parade as scheduled”

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Screenshot/YouTube Chicago's ABC News affiliate WLS ABC 7

The 2022 Aurora Pride Parade in the City of Aurora, Illinois has been scrapped after the City revoked the permit issued for the event claiming Aurora Pride organizers failed to retain the number of law enforcement officers for the parade. 

The decision to revoke the permit comes after an uproar last month when Aurora Pride announced they would not allow police officers to march in the parade in full uniform or bring police vehicles which sparked serious controversy in this fairly liberal suburban Chicago city of 200,000 situated next to the conservative right-leaning city of Naperville, Ill.

Since Pride is considered a private event versus being municipally backed, the city said officers have to volunteer their time to work security, and that required number fell short.

In a written statement issued Wednesday, June 8, Aurora Pride wrote: “We have not been able to close the gap, despite the tireless efforts of our Safety team lead and many supporters offering their assistance. As a result, our permit is now revoked. However, we’re not giving up. Our position has been misrepresented, and we’re making every effort to keep the parade as scheduled.”

Chicago’s ABC News affiliate WLS, ABC 7 reported that some restaurant and shop owners in downtown Aurora are planning to increase their staffing for the pride parade. But now they’re playing it by ear as organizers scramble to find a way to keep the parade as scheduled.

Tecalitlan Restaurant’s owner Marissa Valencia is a supporter of the LGBTQ community. The restaurant is decorated in honor of Pride Month.

“Just so they know that we support them and we are here from them,” Valencia said.

She said parade spectators usually stop in to grab food.

“We have extra help because it gets a little crazy for orders to go,” Valencia said. “So we try to bring somebody else to help us take orders to go.”

Aurora Pride is appealing the city’s decision. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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Illinois

Missing Black Trans activist’s body recovered from Lake Michigan

Police confirm body of Elise Malary found

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LGBTQ+ activist Elise Malary. (Screen capture via WBBM/CBS 2)

EVANSTON, Il. – Evanston police confirmed Saturday the body pulled from Lake Michigan on Thursday has been identified as the missing 31-year-old prominent LGBTQ+ activist Elise Malary.

WBBM/CBS 2 News Chicago reported that Thursday at around 4:30 p.m. Evanston Police and Fire Departments responded to Garden Park in the 500 block of Sheridan Square for a report of a woman found by the rocks.  

Malary, a Black Trans woman, has been missing since March 9 after she sent a text to her sister Fabiana around 9 a.m. – her last known contact. She was later reported missing on March 11.

“She’s never done anything like this before,” said Fabiana. “So that’s why it’s been just so alarming for us.” She told CBS2 that when maintenance workers went to Elise’s apartment, they found the front and back doors unlocked, but there were no signs of anything missing. 

Elise’s blue 2008 Honda Accord was missing but was found late Tuesday two blocks from her residence. Police were checking nearby cameras to see who drove Elise Malary’s car to the parking lot. Her family received word that her vehicle was left there.

Elise Malary is described as an “advocate” who has dedicated her life to “lifting up” the local LGBTQ+ community as a Black trans woman.

The Evanston Police Department is investigating.

Body pulled from Lake Michigan identified as missing Evanston activist Elise Malary:

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