In recognition of his 16-year career in the Illinois House of Representatives, many efforts in public service, not to mention staunch support of the LGBTQ community, state Rep. Greg Harris, who is also the house majority leader, was celebrated at an intimate retirement party at The Baton Show Lounge in Uptown on Dec. 2.
Greeted by fellow Democratic House members, as well as co-workers, friends, family, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the occasion marked Harris' retirement after representing the 13th District of Illinois, which includes parts of Uptown, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, North Center, West Ridge and Bowmanville.
Among the accomplishments that Harris saw through in his tenure is his sponsorship of The Illinois Freedom and Protection Civil Union Act (SB1716), which was signed into law in 2011 and established civil unions in the state. In 2013, he also was lead sponsor of The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which legalized same sex marriage in the state the following year. Harris also served as chairman of the Rules Committee and on the Personnel and Pensions Committee.
Representative Harris was also a member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council; the joint Legislative Health Insurance Exchange Committee; the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force; the Quality-of-Life Board; and the House Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment. He was also chairman of the Violence Prevention Task Force.
Harrie also served as co-chair on the City of Chicago's Task Force on LGBTQ Substance Use/Abuse and as a member of the Crystal Meth Task Force. He is also a founder and first board president of Open Hand Chicago and AIDS/Walk Chicago, and served as a director of the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights.
Among the many awards Harris has received for his service are the Hope and Courage Award from Lurie Children's Hospital; the American Cancer Society Advocate Award; the Community Pride Award from Equality Illinois; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Association of Community Care and Healthcare Providers; the Chicago House Public Service Award; and the Friend for Life Award from Howard Brown Health.
The evening was a virtual who's who of Democratic office holders while Beazley Phillips Band performed light cocktail music featuring songs by Elton John. After brief performances from members of The Laugh Factory's LGBTQ series Sashayamong them Matt Loxley, Riley Cosgrove, and Jessica ManceLightfoot led a contingent of speakers who had worked with Harris. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy presented Harris with a tiara for his years of service while the Chair of the DuPage Democratic Party Ken Mejia-Beal thanked Harris for paving the way for out politicians in Illinois.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky rounded out the evening before Harris walked onto the stage, facing a standing ovation.