Representatives from Equality Illinois, Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) and community activists held a press conference Oct. 24 at Federal Plaza downtown to call on major donors like Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin and Uline Founder Richard Uihlein to stop funding anti-LGBTQ candidates in Illinois.
Federal Plaza is located across the street from Citadel's headquarters.
Speakers included Equality Illinois Public Policy Director Mike Ziri; Equality Illinois Civic Engagement Director Anthony Galloway; HRC Youth and Campus Engagement Program Assistant Director Candace Gingrich; LGBTQ advocate Gearah Goldstein; and LGBTQ activist, writer and Snatched podcast co-host Ken Mejia-Beal.
"In Illinois, our values are fairness, equality and inclusion," said Ziri. "These values are the foundation that make Illinois the best state in the Midwest for LGBTQ equality. However, today, we are in the midst of an election that will determine our futures and LGBTQ people are continually under attack by the Trump administration."
Illinois must have an Attorney General that upholds laws and court decisions that have codified LGBTQ equality across the board, Ziri said. He added that Republican candidate Erika Harold has a record of opposing LGBTQ equality, having supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and opposed national workplace non-discrimination protections.
"Megadonor Ken Griffin, the richest person in Illinois, donated $1.5 million to Harold's campaign last week," said Ziri. "That is on top of his earlier $200,000 donation to her campaign. Richard Uihlein also gave Erika Harold $100,000 last week. We call on these donors to stop contributing to anti-LGBTQ candidates like Erika Harold."
Mejia-Beal said hate is like a fire that can spread everywhere and the only way to stop it is to take away its oxygen.
"No candidate with the background and policy positions like Erika Harold should be receiving millions of dollars so they can fund hateful messages to take away rights from Americans like myself," said Mejia-Beal.
"HRC stands in solidarity with Equality Illinois in asking Ken Griffin and Richard Uihlein and others to stop funding candidates who do not represent Illinois values," said Gingrich. "These candidates have hate in their political platforms, including denying healthcare, dehumanizing immigrants, belittling women and stripping LGBTQ people of what basic human rights they have. Erika Harold is a prime example of someone who has made demeaning and hurtful statements about LGBTQ people and our ability to be good parents."
Gingrich explained that Uihlein ranks third and Griffin ranks eighth in contributions to anti-LGBTQ candidates across the country. This includes Alabama's Judge Roy Moore and Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Leah Vukmir, who is running against Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the country's only openly LGBTQ senator.
"I will be voting for the first time as a new Illinois resident for the entire Democratic slate and that includes my wife, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy," said Gingrich.
Goldstein spoke about being an advocate for trans youth. She said that although she does not usually speak about politics publicly, it was necessary for her to do so at this event due to Illinois elected officials and candidates trying to restrict the rights and equity of trans youth across the state.
"Richard Uihlein has funded candidates throughout his lifetime that do not stand for the equality that Illinois has achieved over the years," said Goldstein. "Erika Harold was simply chosen as a candidate by wealthy funders like Uihlein to leave the corporate sector and serve his personal and restrictive interests."
Goldstein added that companies who have pro-LGBTQ policies that also purchase Uline products should stop doing so because of Uihlein's donation history.
"I am so angry because these anti-LGBTQ policies really impact how communities are able to operate," said Galloway. "This divisive rhetoric being funded by Ken Griffin and Richard Uihlein that is manifested on the streets of Chicago is completely unacceptable."