Brad Lippitz and Jonathan Pizer hosted an LGBT fundraiser at their home for openly gay Ald. Tom Tunney April 11. About 80 people attended the event to hear Tunney speak about his career and the work he's done to advance LGBT visibility and equality.
Among the guests were Alderman James Cappleman and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore, honorary co-chairs for the evening's event. The other honorary co-chairsstate Reps. Greg Harris, Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidywere not present due to work commitments downstate.
Other notable people in attendance included Mona Noriega, chairperson of the Commission on Human Relations for the city of Chicago; Brandon Neese from Rep. Mike Quigley's office; and Laurie Dittman, senior policy analyst for the city of Chicago.
Guests chatted and noshed on appetizers ahead of remarks by Neese, Dittman and Tunney.
Neese spoke about his history with Tunney, including their first meeting at Ann Sather (Tunney is now the owner of Ann Sather) in the early 1980s. He also thanked Tunney for the work he has done to advance LGBT issues over the years. "Tom would give you the shirt off his back. He is a terrific guy," said Neese. Dittman spoke about her long history working with Tunney on LGBT issues. She also talked about how proud she is of Tunney for the work he has done for the 44th ward over the years.
Tunney said, "Our journey started over 30 years ago when it was a few people in this room and the LGBT community that actually brought life back into Lakeview." Of those gathered, Tunney remarked, "I see various parts of my career here both in LGBT politics and the restaurant community."
Then Tunney chronicled the work that he and others did to respond to the AIDS epidemic in the '80s. He explained that he got into politics because of the AIDS crisis, LGBT issues and his desire as a small business owner to make government more efficient. Tunney spoke about how his dual role as an LGBT advocate and a small business owner gives him a unique voice on the city council. "I believe that we are the best neighborhood in the city of Chicago," he said. "Part of that reason is the relationship that the residents, businesses and institutional partners including the Cubs, Illinois Masonic Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital have with each other."
On the political front, Tunney mentioned that former mayor Richard M. Daley and former Illinois Gov. George Ryan were the driving forces that led to the creation of the Center on Halsted. "As the first openly gay alderman in the city of Chicago, I felt that it was history then and I feel that it is really important to continue to pave the way for young people to get involved in politics but not just involved in LGBT issues," Tunney said. "That's not all I care about. I care about the city, economic development and affordable housing. As an elected official you have to be broad based and respectful of all constituencies."
As for the future, Tunney said he will continue solidifying Halsted Street as the center of the LGBT community in Chicago. Tunney made specific note of the soon-to-be-opened LGBT senior housing facility and the outreach that the Center on Halsted is doing beyond Lakeview.