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Lesbian Chicago Councilwoman Deborah Mell Announces Divorce

Mell

Though same-sex marriage just became legal in Illinois, one prominent same-sex couple in the Land of Lincoln is calling it quits. Deborah Mell, the first openly lesbian member of Chicago’s City Council, announced on Twitter last week that she and wife Christin Baker will be parting ways. The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

"Dear Friends, It is with great sadness I tell you my marriage with Christin has ended. As you know divorce is painful, therefore we ask for privacy as we go through this process. Thank you for your continued support and understanding," Mell wrote on Twitter.  She could not be reached for comment, but the Chicago Sun-Times independently confirmed the news that the couple that had so publicly celebrated their love, were now splitting. […]

Mell married Baker, a onetime national director for the YMCA, in a ceremony in Iowa in 2011. Mell became the first high-profile elected official in Illinois to publicly enter into a same-sex marriage. In June, Baker took a position with Daxko Consulting, which is based in Birmingham, Alabama.

Mell was outspoken in Illinois’ fight for marriage equality and memorably announced her engagement to Baker on the Illinois House floor back in 2010. 


Chicago's Gay Community Shames Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bruce Rauner

Bruce rauner poster chicaho pride

Equality Illinois, along with associated community members and elected officials, yesterday unveiled a giant banner of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, showcasing last year’s statement that he would have vetoed the state’s new marriage equality bill had it come to his desk as governor.

The two-story banner titled Bruce Rauner On Equal Marriage, uses the quote: “If I were Governor, I would veto it.”

The banner is located at one of the busiest locations on the Chicago Pride Parade, which is expected to see large crowds this year thanks in part to the marriage equality law going into effect on June 1.

In a statement, Art Johnson, co-founder of Equality Illinois and owner of the Sidetrack bar, said that Rauner “has made it clear he opposes the freedom to marry and has chosen the side of bigotry and intolerance."

Despite claiming to “have many gay friends” that he hopes “have great lives together” should they choose to get married, Rauner said that although he does not have a “social issues agenda”, he would consider repealing the state's marriage equality law if that’s what voters want.


Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate Open to Marriage Equality Repeal if Voters Want It

Bruce Rauner, a Republican challenger to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, says he would consider repealing the state's marriage equality law if voters wanted that, the Chicago Tribune reports:

RaunerRauner has struggled with the issue, telling voters last year that he would follow the results of an advisory referendum to settle the gay marriage question if one were held. Later, after lawmakers approved same-sex marriage bill, Rauner said he would veto the bill if he were governor.

On Monday, Rauner tried to steer away from the hot-button social issue, telling reporters once again that he had no “social issues agenda” but declining to express his personal beliefs on same-sex marriage. “I have many gay friends and if they choose to marry I hope they have great lives together,” said Rauner after a speech to the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

But he did say he was open to a repeal: "Now it's passed, it's the law, I don't have any agenda to change it and the only way I'd change it is if it were done in a referendum — the voters said that they'd want to change it."

LGBT groups are pushing back, the HuffPost reports:

Marriage equality advocates associated with Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal, The Civil Rights Agenda and other groups, as well as several elected officials and community leaders, signed onto an open letter criticizing Rauner distributed Sunday.

"Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor, claims to be a social moderate," the letter read. "We know the real Bruce Rauner. His administration would very likely be working behind-the-scenes to block new legislation and erode the existing laws protecting our families."

Illinois' marriage equality law took effect on Sunday.


Monday Speed Read: Illinois, Maryland Trans Rights, Obama Pride, Gallup, Afghanistan

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

IllinoisILLINOIS LAW ENACTED: 

Several county clerks around Illinois opened their offices Sunday so that same-sex couples could obtain marriage licenses on the first day the state legislature’s new marriage equality law went into effect, June 1. Clerks in 16 counties have been issuing licenses to same-sex couples since February, when a federal district court judge ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The Chicago Sun Times reported yesterday that 1,635 same-sex couples had married by the close of business Friday.

MarylandREFERENDUM FAILS IN MARYLAND:

Equality Maryland leaders were at the Maryland Secretary of State’s office until midnight Saturday, waiting to see if opponents of a recently signed law protecting transgender citizens would be subjected to a referendum. But midnight came and opponents delivered no signatures, so there will be no referendum this year. A message posted on the group’s website indicates it came up 1,000 signatures short of the number it needed to proceed to the ballot. Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, credited her group’s aggressive approach to stopping the referendum. “We had supporters across the state standing right next to petition gatherers and we saw first-hand voters change their minds and not sign the mean-spirited petition,” said Evans. “While some criticized our approach, we felt an obligation to the thousands of transgender Marylanders and the people who love and support them to do everything in our power to defend it, not just be quiet and wait to see what happens.” The new law is due to take effect October 1.

Blue_obamaPRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION:

President Obama issued a presidential proclamation of June as LGBT Pride Month, noting “As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect, our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well.” It also noted that “we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.”

NO HINT OF EXECUTIVE ORDER:

Any hope that some might have harbored that President Obama would take the opportunity of Pride Month to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors appeared to be dampened by the president’s Pride Month proclamation. “LGBT workers in too many states can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity;” the proclamation says, adding, “I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

PUBLIC SUPPORT GROWING:

A Gallup Poll released Friday indicates that 63 percent of Americans support the right of gay couples to adopt children. And a separate Gallup Poll Saturday showed 58 percent consider “gay and lesbian relations” to be morally acceptable. Gallup noted that, when the adoption question was first asked in 1992, only 29 percent supported the right of gay couples to adopt. “Americans have reached consensus faster about same-sex couples adopting children than about support for gay marriage in the last 20 years,” states Gallup, noting that only 55 percent of the public supports allowing same-sex couples to marry.

MaloneyMALONEY TRAVEL COMPANIONS:

Gay U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) was part of a six-member Congressional tour of Afghanistan over the Memorial Day weekend with right-wing Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma. One of the three Democrats along for the ride was Rep. John Barrow of Georgia who scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional scorecard.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Equality Illinois Calls for Challenge of Brunei Ambassador Over Country’s Anti-gay Law

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 11.39.07 AMThe Chicago Council on Global Affairs plans to host the Brunei ambassador to the United States at a meeting in Chicago today and Equality Illinois is calling on participants to bring up Brunei’s new anti-gay law punishing homosexual acts with death by stoning.

Via press release:

“We should take every opportunity to challenge and express opposition to this obscene law that violates all norms of human rights,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest organization advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans.

“Many nations make life difficult or create outright bans on their LGBT citizens but few go as far as Brunei in instituting a heinous death penalty for being gay,” Cherkasov said. “American businesses with global interests should specifically avoid doing business in Brunei, lest they place their employees at risk because of their actual or perceived LGBT identity.”

Brunei Amb. Dato Yusoff Abd Hamid will be joined by five other ambassadors of countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).


Illinois GOP Committeemen Who Tried to Boot Party Chair for Support of Marriage Equality Get Replaced

Last year, you may recall, a group of Illinois Republicans made an attempt to oust former Illinois GOP chair Pat Brady for his statements in support of marriage equality.

BradySix of seven Republicans who signed a letter to oust Brady have been replaced in their committee posts, according to the AP, while the seventh was re-elected to a new term.

The ideological shifts in the party's organizational structure come as Republicans in Illinois and nationally are working to expand and attract women and minority voters as they look to November.

In all, only seven of 18 committeemen were re-elected to new four-year terms.

"There were some people that have moved on that were great, and then there were others that were absolutely destructive and were not good for the party and they're gone," said Brady, who is no longer a member of the committee. "All in all, it was a good night, (bringing in) a lot of new blood.”

The thinking mirrors that of Republicans in Nevada, who recently removed opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion from the party platform.


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