Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Gay attorney Ray Koenig talks about historic Chicago Bar Association post
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 3814 times since Tue Jul 11, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

After 150 years in existence, the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) has started another new chapter in the story of inclusion.

Ray J. Koenig III, a longtime attorney for the firm Clark Hill, is the CBA's newest president—and is also the first openly gay person to fill that role. (In CBA meeting remarks, Koenig spoke about, among other things, why inclusion in the legal profession is very important. Reasons included the emergence of diverse perspectives, access to justice and professional development.)

Koenig recently talked with Windy City Times about this historic development as well as activism and politics.

Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.

Windy City Times: What was the procedure that resulted in you being CBA president?

Ray Koenig: I first became involved with the CBA when I was in law school, so last century. I've been involved in various committees or I've presented there. For the first five years, I was really more focused on the Illinois State Bar Association; I had a leadership position there and stayed there for a while.

As I was coming out of that, the then-executive director of the CBA, Terry Murphy, reached out to me and said, "I'd like you to get involved with the CBA. I think you'd make a good leader, so could you run for the board of managers?" This was back in 2014.

So I was on the board for two years but Terry Murphy, being Terry Murphy, said, "I want to keep you involved." We went to lunch and he said he had three or four ideas, asking, "Does any of them interest you?" And the one that did [involved] creating a leadership institute for attorneys with [relatively little] experience. So we formed a committee, which I chaired, and worked with stakeholders; we came up with the CBA Leadership Institute, which I also chaired.

From there, it was suggested that I run for an officer position. With the CBA, there are potentially six officers: secretary, treasurer, second vice president, first vice president, president and ex-officio [being a member by virtue of holding another position]. I was secretary; once those two years were up, I was nominated for second vice president. Once you're nominated for second, if you win (which I did), you automatically move up after the next two years to president—and I did serve a year as first vice president. Next year, I'll be ex-officio.

WCT: Obviously, this is a historic development. Do you think becoming president says anything about CBA in terms of inclusion?

RK: So we're celebrating our 150 years and I'm the first openly gay president. There were probably gay presidents before me, but they did not live in a world where they could be open.

The CBA has been really intentional, over the last 25 years or so, about identifying leaders from diverse backgrounds. We've had the first women, African-American females, first Asian, first Latina—all the firsts. So it seems surprising that we're just getting to the first LGBTQ+ individual, but it's not because we've had so many other firsts. And there have been a ton of openly gay people on the board of managers over the years.

To me, if you look at me being the first openly gay president in a vacuum, it seems weird. But if you look at the long line of leaders, it just says that I'm yet another leader from a diverse background.

WCT: And what do you plan on achieving?

RK: World domination. I'm kidding. [Smiles]

A lot of people, when they become president of a professional organization like the CBA, have a project in mind. My goal is to make the CBA more inclusive, and to spread that kind of care throughout the legal profession.

The legal profession, in general, has become really good about identifying and hiring a diverse workforce. But we're losing people regarding retention, in part, because people with diverse backgrounds are not asked to have a seat at the table where decisions are being made. Instead, we [often] go to the people we're most comfortable with—and when you have a lot of white men running the big legal institutions, you go to them. That's not to say that's bad, but it's not being particularly inclusive.

At Clark Hill, I encourage my partners and colleagues to be more inclusive when they're putting together teams, meeting potential clients or even going to charity events. Who are you inviting—the same three guys you're having lunch with every day? No. [Diversity] is a really good thing, for the firm and for you; you're going to make better decisions.

It sounds like a cliche but it's true: The more diverse a group is, the better the decisions will be. That's been my experience and it's a reality. Being a white guy with a nice smile has opened a lot of doors for me, and I get that—and I want to use that experience to bring other [diverse] people in.

Also, I'm frequently read as a straight guy. When I'm in a room, people say things that they normally wouldn't say if they knew I was gay. In my meeting remarks, I say "gay, gay, gay" all over the place. I don't want to shut down any voices; I want people to stop and think: If you wouldn't say something if I were in the room [knowing that I'm gay], why are you saying it at all?

My directive is diversity when selecting a panel or topics, or when forming a committee or presenting a seminar. Look around. If it's just you and your sorority, then … come on. It's really not that hard to be inclusive.

I've discovered that it can be a challenge for older colleagues to talk about diversity because there's some discomfort, as they've never talked about it. Or because, if they say the wrong thing, they're worried about offending someone. But I think the more inclusive we are, the less likely something like that would happen. If I can give them license for them to be more comfortable if I'm out, then I think it'll make it a little easier for them.

A lot of my peers want to do the right thing and make things better. They just frequently do the wrong thing by not doing anything.

WCT: Does the CBA ever issue press releases or responses to something like the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision involving LGBTQ+ issues [303 Creative LLC v. Elenis]?

RK: So, the CBA takes positions on pieces of legislation and we have committees that do that. We do not take positions on case [decisions] that are issued.

Sometimes, we [get involved] in federal law. I remember, way back when, I was on the board of managers when Illinois was working on marriage equality. I was very proud to be on the board at the time, when a position was issued in favor of marriage equality. It was a time when the lives of attorneys who were out were being impacted.

WCT: I know that, in another life, you were an legislative aide. Are you thinking about politics for yourself in the future?

RK: Nope.

WCT: Are you sure?

RK: Nope. [Smiles] I admire our elected civil servants, judges, alderpeople, senators, representatives—and I really respect them. They're really hard-working. Some of the judges—and I'm friends with some—are the most intelligent and dedicated civil servants I can imagine. That's true of a lot of legislators—and one that sticks out is my friend, [former Illinois House Speaker] Greg Harris. He's literally changed the lives of millions of people.

That being said, I don't have any desire to do the fundraising that comes along with those jobs. I know it's different for judges, but the processes they go through to get elected or appointed are a lot. I like being involved in the process; I like falling in love with a candidate and helping that person get elected.

Also, I love my practice at Clark Hill and doing fiduciary probate litigation. I enjoy it, I like my clients and I like [my colleagues]. At the annual meeting, I said I have no desire to be a judge, either. If something happened where there was an opening and they thought I was the right person for it and I thought I was the right person for it—which would take a big ego—then I would consider it. But it's not something I'm seeking.

WCT: I'm going to ask you something I've asked a lot of people this year, from everyday individuals to people like Billy Porter and Chaz Bono: What is it like for you to be part of the LGBTQ+ community in today's America?

RK: I am living a life that little Raymond from blue-collar White Lake, Michigan never dreamed about. On one hand, I'm married to an amazing husband, Johnny; I have 13-year-old twins; I was just elected the first openly gay president of the CBA; and I live in a city that's been incredibly accepting, because I didn't grow up here.

Your question implies, to me, that we're under attack—and that fact that it's happening is terrible. The fact that, recently, it was the [eighth] anniversary of the Obergefell decision and I read Justice Kennedy's words. Every year, what he wrote becomes more meaningful; this year, when I posted something about the anniversary, I said, "law of the land—for now." As we've seen in the last year or two, massive precedents have been overturned.

So it's an amazing time we live in when people like Billy Porter can be themselves. But the other side is, like, "Jesus! What the heck is happening?" It seems like it's two steps forward and one step back—and we're in the one-step-back part right now. But I think that people who favor an exclusionary and divisive ideology are on their way out and they're breathing their last gasps.

This article shared 3814 times since Tue Jul 11, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

Lambda Legal, ACLU of Iowa file lawsuit against sweeping anti-LGBTQ law in Iowa
--From a press release - Last Tuesday, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit wit ACLU of Iowa and with co-counsel support from the law firm Jenner & Block LLP to block a sweeping law in Iowa (SF 496) that seeks to silence ...

Gay News

World AIDS Day commemorated at AIDS Garden Chicago
On the rainy morning of Dec. 1, Chicago Parks Foundation and the AIDS Garden Chicago Board of Directors hosted a World AIDS Day commemoration at AIDS Garden Chicago, just south of Belmont Harbor on the Lakefront. ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Tenn. law, banned books, rainbow complex, journalists quit
Under pressure from a lawsuit over an anti-LGBTQ+ city ordinance, officials in Murfreesboro, Tennessee removed language that banned homosexuality in public, MSNBC noted. Passed in June, Murfreesboro's "public decency" ordinance ...

Gay News

Russia court classifies LGBTQ+ activists as 'extremists'
On Nov. 30, Russia's Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ+-rights activists should be classified as extremists—a move that representatives of queer people fear will lead to arrests and prosecutions, Reuters reported. The court approved a request from ...

Gay News

LGBTQ+ couple the first in South Asia to have marriage recognized
Transgender woman Maya Gurung and Surendra Pandey became the first LGBTQ+ couple to have their marriage legally recognized in South Asia after they received a legal certificate in Nepal's Lamjung district on Nov. 29, The Guardian ...

Gay News

Trans women banned from playing cricket
Transgender women have been barred from playing in international women's matches under a new policy from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the BBC reported. Any player who has gone through male puberty will not be eligible ...

Gay News

WORLD Thai marriage law, French bill, Miss Universe, IKEA, activist dies
Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said that the cabinet approved a draft law on marriage equality and that it would be brought to parliament during a session starting in December, Reuters reported. If the draft law ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Trevor Project, anti-trans crimes, priest sentenced, hate-crimes unit
The Trevor Project announced the extension of its partnership with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, reaffirming its commitment to providing specialized assistance to LGBTQ+ people who call 9-8-8, The Advocate reported. Interim Senior Vice President ...

Gay News

SCOTUS Hamburger Mary's decision: small victory, big concerns
In a surprise move, a 6-3 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court did something good for LGBTQ+ people: It rejected Florida's request for a stay against a lower court decision—a stay that would have enabled the ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Best-selling author, labor lawyer, feminist, LGBTQ ally Linda Hirshman
Best-selling author, renowned pro-union labor lawyer, Brandeis University professor, feminist and LGBTQ ally Linda Hirshman died Oct. 31 in Burlington, Vermont of cancer. She was 79. Hirshman was born April 26, 1944, in Cleveland where she ...

Gay News

WORLD Latvia, nonbinary magistrate, Gay Games end, Israel soldiers
Latvia's parliament voted to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions, Reuters reported. Said couples now have legal recognition—but fewer rights than married couples. The new legislation, slated to take effect in the middle of next ...

Gay News

Illinois attorney general part of effort against Oklahoma anti-trans youth law
--From a press release - Chicago — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is opposing a state law in Oklahoma that severely limits the ability of transgender youth to access critical, lifesaving gender-affirming care. Raoul, along with a coalition of attorneys general, ...

Gay News

Santos not seeking re-election after wrongdoing evidence is revealed
On Nov. 16, the House Ethics Committee found "substantial evidence" that U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) violated federal law, setting the stage for another push to expel the embattled gay first-term Congressman and prompting him to ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Election results, campus items, Puerto Rican icons, healthcare suit
Historic developments took place during the Nov. 7 elections that happened in some states. LGBTQ+ Victory Fund candidate Rue Landau won an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council—making her the first out LGBTQ+ candidate to ...

Gay News

Mississippi makes history with first LGBTQ+ state lawmaker, county supervisor
On Nov. 7 Fabian Nelson—backed by the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund—won the general election to represent District 66 in the Mississippi State House, making history as the first out LGBTQ+ candidate to win election to the state ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.