There were a few changes to Lambda Legal's April 21 Bon Foster fundraiser.
Named in memory of Robert Bonvoulior "Bon" Fosteran attorney, civil-rights activist and founder of the organization's Midwest regional officeit is one of the signature events in the Chicago LGBTQ social calendar held by one of the most effective national nonprofits in the community.
This year, Bon Foster had moved from the visual elegance of the Art Institute of Chicago to the industrial splendor found within the historic walls of the West Loop's Morgan Manufacturing.
The event space was fashioned out of a building occupied in 1855 by Salisbury Electric surviving the Chicago Fire 16-years later.
Given the mountain of work Lambda Legal faces in combating a tidal wave of anti-transgender legislation and religiously-based discrimination around the country, the ambiance of this year's fundraiser was very much in keeping with the perseverance and relentless endeavor which still haunts its surroundings.
Instead of taking part in a long series of speeches at an inaccessible distance from the audience, Lambda Legal's Board, leadership team, staff and volunteers joined their guests for one-on-one conversations, teaching them about their work, the lives they have changed and their heightened resolve to end the kind stories of injustice which would often bring Foster to tears.
There was a sense that the organization, its donors and supporters were all in this together.
By midway through the evening, Lambda Legal was only a few thousand dollars shy of its $500,000 goal.
"There is simply no other organization in the country that is as aggressively and proactively fighting and advocating for the rights of LGBT Americans," event chair John Litchfield said. "We didn't anticipate the backlash we are seeing in places like North Carolina, Mississippi and even right next door in Indiana. There's a lot of bills out there that are trying to set us back."
Those bills have instead set Lambda Legal's staff to engage in round-the-clock trench warfare.
"We have lawyers working harder than you can ever imagine." Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Director Jim Bennett said. "The unprecedented avalanche of hate bills, including one right here in Illinois, are designed with the sole purpose of putting us in our place. Our opposition has brought this fight to us and they have grossly miscalculated our resolve. There is no way we are going to let them set us back. There is no way we are going to be separated from our trans brother and sisters. The attacks are not ones on a distant horizon. We are in the middle of a storm."
For more information about Lambda Legal, visit: www.lambdalegal.org .