National activists have hailed 2012 as a landmark year for LGBT rights, and Chicago has been no exception. The Windy City had its fill of LGBT triumphs (and some tragedies) over the past year. Here are our biggest headlines from 2012:
Marriage momentum: Marriage equality in Illinois is the prediction for 2013, after a stunning year of progress by LGBT advocates. State Rep. Greg Harris is poised to call for a vote on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Also pushing for marriage equality are Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both organizations filed suit against Cook County Clerk David Orr, seeking to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of 25 couples. Orr refused to defend the ban as did State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Five other county clerks are intervening to fight the lawsuits.
Health assurance: Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) continued to recover its finances and its reputation, more than two years after the discovery of misused grants rocked the organization. HBHC settled its debts with federal funders, paying out $715,000. The organization remains in "good standing" with the federal government.
Questions were raised about whether or not the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study would remain at HBHC following a dispute with Northwestern University over the release of patient information. Broadway Youth Center announced it was moving from its old home at Belmont and Broadway.
Staff changes continued to sweep the organization, including a change in leadership. Embattled CEO Jamal Edwards stepped down. Former Board Chair Karma Israelsen is filling in while HBHC conducts a new leadership search.
Election gains: LGBTs fared well in local elections this November. In one of the most-watched races among LGBT Illinoisans, Sam Yingling became the first openly gay rep elected outside of Chicago, besting Republican Sandy Cole. Openly gay Rep. Deb Mell carried a strong leader over Republican challenger Antoinette "Toni" Puccio-Johnson. Judge Andrea Schleifer, another out gay candidate, bested Republican James Pieczonka for the Cook County 12th Subcircuit Rochford vacancy.
John Dalton became the first openly gay judge elected outside of Chicago, defeating Republican John Waters in the race for the 16th Circuit seat in Kane County. John Ehrlich, an openly gay judicial candidate, ran unopposed for the Cook County 8th Subcircuit Cole vacancy. Debra Shore, the out gay commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, led a pack of eight in both city and Cook County elections and will be staying in office.
Playing chicken: Chicago became the most-watched battleground in a seemingly unending national debate over chicken sandwiches and homophobia this summer. After Chick-fil-A head Dan Cathy stated that his company was "guilty as charged" of opposing gay marriage, Chicago Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno vowed to block the chain from moving into his ward until the company ceased donations to anti-gay groups and announced anti-discrimination policies. Moreno later declared victory, but Chick-fil-A said it had not changed policies.
TransLife center: Renowned HIV service organization Chicago House announced that it would be serving a new population in the coming months: transgender people. The organization is in the process of opening new housing in the city's Edgewater neighborhood. The organization will also offer myriad transgender services in the house's lower level. Chicago House staff have all been trained to better serve transgender people, and the organization has added transgender voices to its board.
From the Hart: Chicago's LGBT library moved from Edgewater to Rogers Park, but not without difficulty. A Windy City Times investigation revealed that Gerber/Hart Library and Archives had become estranged from the community that built it, while questions about its compliance with non-profit law emerged.
Karen Sendziak, former board president, stepped down amid the controversy, and the library adopted new bylaws that stripped member voting rights. The organization held a closed annual meeting in December, but that meeting did not include board elections. The library has yet to reopen, as its new home is under construction.
TGIF: Chicago saw its first-ever transgender pride event in 2012. "Transgender, Gender Non-conforming Intersex Freedom" debuted in Union Park in July. The afternoon picnic featured performances by transgender people, tabling and a rally. Lead organizer KOKUMO has said the event will be an annual tradition.
Healthy Chicago: City officials unveiled a new plan that aims to improve LGBT health. The "LGBT Community Action Plan" will target prevalence of smoking, lack of culturally competent medical care, hate violence against transgender people, HIV and obesity. The plan is part of the city's "Healthy Chicago" initiative.
Coming to one's census: The Chicago Community Trust and the Morten Group presented data from the LGBT Needs Assessment, providing the fist study of Chicago's LGBT community in nearly a decade. Access to healthcare, unemployment and underemployment, access to government rights and services, discrimination and safety were among the top issues facing the community.
LPAC: Billing itself as the first of its kind, the Lesbian Political Action Committee (LPAC) launched June 11 with the backing of prominent Chicagoans. Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, Chicago-area native Jane Lynch and Chicagoan Sarah Schmidt, whose family owns U.S. Venture, were all involved.
Homo-grown: In September, the Chicago Housing Authority approved a major contract for upcoming LGBT-friendly senior housing in Lakeview, totaling $29,124,000 over 30 years. The award went to Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted, which are collaborating to bring 79 LGBT-affirming units to 3600 N. Halsted St. The project has been years in the making and is expected to open in late spring of 2014. The property houses the former historic 23rd Dist. Town Hall Police Station, which will be persevered.
Equality's expansion: LGBT-policy organization Equality Illinois announced an expansion to Springfield and Chicago's western suburbs. The organization is opening two satellite offices in Springfield and in DuPage County.
Proud control: Chicago's Annual Pride Parade kicked off without a hitch this year with a new route and the heaviest attendance in its more than four-decade history. Officials had fretted over whether or not the new route would curb overcrowding problems seen in 2011.
HIV totals: A report recently put out by the Chicago Department of Public Health shows that HIV rates among men who have sex with men rose in 2011 but that testing and linkage to care did as well. HIV prevalence rates among MSMs in 2011 were 20.9 percent, up from 2008, when the rate was 18.1 percent.
Police trans-formation: After two years of pushing by local activists, the Chicago Police Department quietly adopted a general order in August that mandates the respect treatment of transgender by police. Activists celebrated the new policy but said they want significant improvements to the document as well as better oversight to make sure it is followed.
Mayors for marriage: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed onto a nationwide campaign in support of same-sex marriage, joining more than 70 other mayors to do so in a massive push for marriage equality. The "Mayors for the Freedom to Marry" launch Jan. 20 at the Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.
Gimme shelter: A far North Side Church announced its intention to open a shelter for LGBTQ youth. Unity Church, 1925 W. Thome Ave., began planning for the shelter this summer after a pastor there met LGBTQ homeless youth in Lakeview and said he felt moved to act.
Velvet Rope fire: Popular Oak Park gay bar, the Velvet Rope, was ravaged by a suspicious fire in June. Officials said that anti-gay graffiti was found spray-painted in the bar, and they ruled the fire arson. Rumors have swirled about the source of the fire, but Oak Park police have yet to announce an arrest.
Crossroads: Chicago's Dykes on Bikes organization became an official chapter of the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes, making the riders a non-profit organization. The group had been working as an unofficial entity since 1987. The name "Dykes on Bikes" is a registered trademark of the San Francisco organization.
Re-birth day: Illinois was forced to update its process for allowing transgender people to change their birth certificates after the American Civil Liberties Union slapped the state with a lawsuit on behalf of three trans people. Genital surgery is no longer a requirement for updating one's birth certificate, but surgery of some kind is still mandated.
Shelter from the storm: Vida/SIDA open Chicago's first LGBTQ-specific youth shelter this March. El Rescate transitional housing, located in Humboldt Park, was designed to house a dozen youth ages 18-24.
Repair therapy: Illinois became latest battleground state in a nationwide fight over "ex-gay" therapy in October when The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and the American Psychoanalytic Association announced that they filed a licensing board complaint against a mental health professional practicing reparative therapy, a practice purported to change sexual orientation. The complaint, filed with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, advocates for the investigation of Paul McNulty, a Bloomingdale Illinois social worker.
Flip-flop: An Aurora school district attracted national headlines after it changed course on plans to adopt a transgender student policy three times. East Aurora School District 131 adopted the protections this fall, voted to undo the policy just days later, set up a committee to re-write the protections and then disbanded that committee. LGBT advocates argue that the district caved to pressure from the Illinois Family Institute, an anti-gay group that strongly opposed the protections.
Trans Rights Project: The Civil Rights Agenda announced its new Transgender Rights Project, a transgender-led group dedicated to policy advances and education. The group could become the only policy-focused transgender entity in the state; Illinois Gender Advocates, which currently fills that role, is considering disbanding.
Testing behind bars: Cook County Jail resumed HIV and STD screenings, after years of pushing by AIDS advocate and Commissioner Bridget Gainer. Before 2007, the jail only provided tests to those who asked but discontinued that practice. The jail had initially announced that it would be providing opt-out testing in 2010. Two years later, the testing finally resumed with a new 22-room intake facility.
Walk of names: In a historic moment for Chicago's LGBT community, the Legacy Walk, an outdoor walking LGBT history museum, was dedicated this October. Currently, 18 plaques tell the stories of LGBT leaders and other LGBT triumphs. The museum is the first of its kind. Hundreds attended a dedication ceremony of the plaques.