Celebrating a Shared History: Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame Induction
On a blustery and brisk November night in Chicago, friends, family, elected officials, business owners and members of the LGBT community gathered at the Chicago History Museum to celebrate its 21st year by inducting 15 new members into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. Among those present were Chicago celebrities including Studs Terkel, Billie Jean King, Randy Duncan and the Howard Brown Health Center.
"Chicago is a city of communities, of neighborhoods and we need to respect all our citizens. The LGBT community is part of the full breadth of the Chicago family," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was on hand for the event, and spoke about how building LGBT communities and strengthening families is the goal of the City of Chicago. He received a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd when he said, "The civil union act was signed into law, but we need to take the next step. We need to get Illinois on record for marriage equality!"
Mona Noriega, chairman and commissioner of Human Relations for the City of Chicago, detailed the strides that have been made by the LGBT community in the recent past, like the abolishment of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing our LGBT armed forces members to serve openly. She also noted the election of the first openly gay senator to the U.S. Senate, and said, "I am in awe of the depth and scope of work of the LGBT community."
The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame is both an historic event and an exhibit. Through the Hall of Fame, residents of Chicago and world are made aware of the stunning and continuous contributions of Chicago’s LGBT communities and their efforts to improve the lives of community members and eradicate bias and discrimination. The Hall of Fame honors the volunteer and professional achievements of LGBT individuals, groups and organizations. The selection of inductees for the Hall of Fame is made by former recipients of the award based on nominations from the general public.
Attendees were invited to walk around the museum to view the exhibits before the ceremony began, and enjoy refreshments provided. The crowd was excited, almost giddy and many greeted each other warmly.
Indeed, the breadth of inductees was truly astonishing. Cook County Clerk David Orr was inducted as a Friend of the Community for his unflagging support of marriage equality in Cook County.
Honey West, a well-known transgender entertainer was inducted for her tireless work to break down walls and dispel myths about trans performers. Heather C. Sawyer, who has recently relocated to Washington D.C. to work as minority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, was inducted for her work in Chicago and her continued fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to ensure federal respect for the state marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
One of the most moving inductions was that of Minister Lois Bates. Minister Bates, who died in 2011, was an advocate of LGBT youth in Chicago. She was transgendered, an Iraq War veteran and a trailblazer in her community with her efforts at educating youth about HIV prevention and leading her community to a place of openness and love.
Because she was being inducted posthumously, her 92-year-old mother accepted the award on her behalf. The award presenter had to wait several moments to continue speaking as the crowd in the auditorium clapped and stomped, and Minister Bates’ mother wept as she took the award and shook Mayor Emanuel’s hand.
The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame raises money for this event with several fun events throughout the year like a celebrity bowling party, HamBingo and a martini party. To learn more about the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame and how you can get involved or nominate a person or group, visit http://www.glhalloffame.org.