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CHICAGO 2015 IN REVIEW From elections to closures
by Matt Simonette
2015-12-23

This article shared 6703 times since Wed Dec 23, 2015
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—Meeks nomination: Former state Sen. the Rev. James Meeks was, in January, nominated by Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner to become chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education. Meeks, who heads the Salem Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side, has a long history of challenging goals sought by the LGBT community. The state Senate nevertheless approved Meeks in March, with only state Sen. Heather Steans voting "present" and state Sen. William Delgado voting "nay."

—Conversion therapy: State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, in January, introduced HB 217, or the Conversion Therapy Prohibition Act, which prohibits mental health care providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with patients under the age of 18. The bill eventually passed both houses and was signed by Gov. Rauner in August.

—Trans expansion: By a unanimous vote Jan. 21, the Chicago City Council approved the expansion of an existing city ordinance prohibiting police profiling based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability, military discharge, marital, financial or parental status to include gender identity and national origin as well.

—Mayoral runoff: Incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faced a runoff against challenger Jesus Garcia April 7, after not receiving the number simple majority of votes needed to win in the February election. Emanuel eventually defeated Garcia with about 56 percent of the vote.

—Uptown runoff: The 46th had a gay vs. lesbian runoff—James Cappleman the incumbent versus challenger Amy Crawford. Cappleman eventually won.

—Bullying and the budget: Among the myriad budget cuts handed down in the Feb. 18 budget from Gov. Bruce Rauner was the elimination of funding for programs that stem school bullying. "There's so little rhyme or reason to this," said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who was chief House sponsor of SB 5707, passed in 2014, which implemented a number of anti-bullying initiatives.

—Giving things a Spin: The longtime owner of Spin—who sold the nightclub in 2014, but still owns the building in which it was located—said he would be taking the space back in March, after new businesses failed to click in the space.

—Schock treatment: A senior advisor to now-former Illinois Republican Rep. Aaron Schock resigned in disgrace hours after racially insensitive posts he wrote on Facebook came to light. It was the first of many setbacks for Schock, whose lavish spending was questioned by authorities and had to leave office. He is currently the subject of a federal investigation.

—New LGBT caucus: Chicago has 10 percent of its 50 ward posts led by openly gay or lesbian aldermen, after the April 7 runoff races. The gay aldermen included Alds. Raymond Lopez ( 15th Ward ); Deb Mell ( 33rd ); Carlos Ramirez-Rosa ( 35th ); Tom Tunney ( 44th ); and James Cappleman ( 46th ).

—Seasons of change: A Chicago couple, on April 12, found themselves in the spotlight when their engagement was referenced in the video that officially announced Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. Jared Milrad and Nathan Johnson, who live in Uptown, were among myriad Americans depicted in the video who were preparing to undergo change of some sort, all of which led up to Clinton's stated change—her run for president.

—Research center: Center on Halsted and IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at Northwestern University on April 23 launched a new LGBT health research center located at the Center. It is the first LGBT health research facility in the nation that is housed in an LGBT community center.

—Matching grant: Lambda Legal national board co-chair Karen K. Dixon and her wife of seven years, Nan Schaffer, in April, announced their commitment to the organization's #IDo campaign with a $1 million matching challenge grant—one which the organization must earn by raising the same amount from its donors. The goal was reached by June. Dixon and Schaffer are former Chicagoans.

—Amigas Latinas folds: After 20 years of offering a wide range of support, education and advocacy for LGBT Latinas, Amigas Latinas announced in May that the organization will fold. "We did not take this decision lightly, it was over a year-long process," said board president Alma Izquierdo. "But we have to recognize that despite a vibrant legacy, we no longer have the resources or capacity to continue our work in the ways that we think our growing and changing community deserves."

—Veterans monument: A dedication was held Memorial Day, May 25, for the first federally approved LGBT veterans monument on federal land, at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois.

—Hastert downfall: Republican U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, represented Illinois' 14th Congressional District for 20 years, was faced with a federal indictment in June for trying to evade federal bank reporting requirements, and lying to investigators about the purpose of those bank transactions, which reports said went towards hush-money payments to cover up abuse-allegations. Hastert admitted to the payments in October, and is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 29, 2016. Shortly after appearing in court this fall, however, Hastert was hospitalized with a stroke.

—New Montrose Rocks name: A longtime Black gay pride celebration was rebranded when the event formerly known as Montrose Rocks became Pride at Montrose. The event was held following the Pride parade on June 28.

—Vaccinations needed: City health officials, in June, urged Chicagoans, especially persons who are HIV-positive as well as gay and bisexual men and transgender women who have anonymous sex or use hook-up apps, to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, after several cases were reported locally.

—National landmark: In recognition of LGBT Pride month, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the Henry Gerber House in Chicago has been designated a national historic landmark, becoming the nation's second LGBT related property to achieve such recognition.

—Mirror, mirror: A comedian well known in the LGBT community made a bizarre discovery at a gig in suburban Berwyn—a two-way mirror in the women's washroom—and that led to a change in local ordinances. It is now illegal to utilize two way mirrors or similar surveillance devices in private spaces in Berwyn. The Berwyn City Council unanimously passed the ordinance June 9 after Chicago performer Tamale Rocks ( also known as Tamale Sepp ) noticed such a mirror in the club where she was performing.

—Dyke march: Several thousand turned out for the annual Chicago Dyke March on June 27. As is tradition, motorcycle riders kicked off the march, which started this year at the corner of Western and Division and headed west into Humboldt Park.

—Perfect Pride: Chicagoans could not have asked for a better day for their Pride Parade. With sunny weather and temperatures in the mid-70s, one million people gathered for the 46th annual parade that stretched from Uptown through Lake View. Celebrants were this year further stoked by news that came from the U.S. Supreme Court just more than 48 hours earlier, that marriage equality was now the law of the land. Country singer Ty Herndon was the parade's grand marshal. Chicago police said that there were 52 arrests connected with the Pride celebration.

—Parade, interrupted: Several protesters from the group #BlackOutPride staged a "die-in" at Halsted and Addison on the Pride parade route. Eight people were arrested. The group #BlackOutPride wanted to call attention to numerous LGBT-related issues that had been given short-shrift by the community in favor of marriage equality, such as homelessness among LGBT youth and hyper-policing of communities of color.

—Budget demands: About 100 community members and health activists gathered in front of the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago July 22 to demand that the state pass a budget that adequately funds services for those Illinoisans who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS.

—Howard Brown given highest designation: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS ), on Aug. 11, selected Howard Brown Health Center as a Federally Qualified Health, the highest designation that can be awarded to a U.S. health center.

—New trans benefits: Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on Aug. 5, announced that the Chicago would remove the exclusion of gender-reassignment services from city health care benefits. Under the new rule, the insurance plans of city employees will cover such procedures.

—Leaving a legacy: Several dozen supporters of The Legacy Project gathered at the Bridgeport Art Center Aug. 23 for the first showing of The Legacy Wall, an interactive exhibit featuring a diverse cross-section of LGBTs that will travel across the state for 15 months, after which it is expected to tour around the United States.

—19th murder: Keyshia Blige—a Black woman who lived in Naperville, Illinois, but was killed in the city of Aurora—became the 19th known transgender woman murdered in the United States this year ( As of this writing, there are 22 ).

—Rentboy response: Approximately 20 people gathered outside the Center on Halsted Sept. 5 and marched along a route that took them through Lake View. The action was part of a coordinated week- long protest in four cities nationwide that members of the Sex Workers Outreach Project ( SWOP ) and their allies organized in response to the Aug. 25 Rentboy.com raids in Manhattan.

—Bijou closes: Bijou Theater, 1349 N. Wells St., announced that it would close Sept. 30. "The end of days has come to Bijou after 46 years," owner Steve Toushin said in the message. "...[Times] change. Neighborhoods change. Ownership changes of buildings and leases change."

—Sloan leaving: Longtime Chicago House and Social Service Agency CEO Rev. Stan Sloan announced the week of Sept. 14 that he would be stepping down from his post in 2016.

—Bed and breakfast: The Illinois Human Rights Commission, on Sept. 15, found that a downstate bed-and- breakfast facility discriminated against a gay couple when the owners told them they do not allow same-sex civil union ceremonies.

—HBHC and Gerber/Hart mashup: Officials from Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC ) and Gerber/ Hart Library and Archives, on Sept. 29, announced that HBHC will open a clinic at 6500 N. Clark St.—the address where Gerber/Hart has been the sole tenant since 2013.

—Taking Pride action: The Pride Action Tank ( PAT )—a group that addresses challenges facing individuals and groups within LGBTQ communities through a collaborative process of inquiry, advocacy and action—is launched in October as a project of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Kim L. Hunt, former executive director of Affinity Community Services, was named as PAT's executive director.

—Plaque story: Chicago's Legacy Walk gained five new bronze memorial plaques that were unveiled in the Phase IV dedication ceremony on Oct. 10 in Boystown. The five new inductees included the Pink Triangle, Billy Strayhorn, Rudolf Nureyev, Leonard Bernstein and Josephine Baker.

—Hall of Fame name change: The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, founded in 1991, voted to change its name to the more inclusive Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.

—Caitlyn appears: Television celebrity and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner spoke before a capacity audience at the 7th Annual Chicago House Speaker Series held in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton Nov 12.

—Sleepout: Nearly 400 people, about half camping overnight, showed up at Chicago's Cricket Hill at Montrose and the Lake Nov. 20 and braved the season's first snowfall for the first Out in the Open Sleep Out. The event raised funds for 19 Chicago-area charities that work on issues pertaining to homeless LGBT youth.

—Shopping, interrupted: Chicago's Magnificent Mile and the Black Friday cash registers of its high-end stores were brought to a standstill Nov. 27 by nearly 2,000 protesters who covered the breadth of Michigan Avenue, pausing at each intersection to give voice to each of the 16 gunshots discharged by Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) officer Jason Van Dyke into the body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

—Agreement reached: The Township High School District 211 Board of Education voted Dec. 7 to uphold an agreement that will allow a Palatine trans student to utilize her school's girls' locker room facilities. The agreement came after weeks of heated deliberation over the matter.


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