(Chicago, IL) — June 16, 2010. Honesty. Equality.
Those words pulsated on tongues last night—like the secret sauce over the beef tenderloin—among the guests at a private, $1,000-a-plate dinner party in Chicago for Governor Pat Quinn and running mate Sheila Simon.
“I think Quinn is one of the few true honest politicians today. He does the right thing, even if it’s not the popular thing,” said Chicago Lakeview resident David Neubecker, 41, a foster father of two toddlers, one boy, one girl, by way of explaining his presence at the event.
“He’s honest; he’s hard working; and he’s committed to human rights and equality,” said retired businessman Austin Baidas, 39, who hosted the elegant dinner soirée at his sleek, sprawling Lakeview duplex and who has been volunteering full-time for Quinn’s campaign since October 2009.
Organized by human rights activists representing Illinois gay and lesbian voters, the dinner–preceded by a larger fund-raiser at the north side bar Sidetrack—was held to boost the Quinn-Simon campaign.
Those activists included: John Barry, John and Char Cepek, Todd Connor, Dalila Fridi, Elizabeth McKnight, Jeremy Gottschalk, Art Johnston, Jose Pena, Dan Kirk, Brian Wolff, Ray Koenig, Johnny Song, Robert Kohl, Amy Maggio, Jacob Meister, Brandon Neese, Lee Neubecker, Phil Palmer, Laura Ricketts, Heidi Grathouse, Commissioner Debra Shore, State Rep. Greg Harris, and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney.
Advocates view Quinn–whose cabinet includes the openly gay Director of the Department of Human Rights, Rocco Claps; the Director of the Department of Insurance, Michael McRaith; and the Secretary of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Brent Adams–as a bulwark against the perceived threat posed by GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady, a hyper-conservative State Senator from Bloomington, who has opposed, among other measures, protection from employment and housing discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“I have spent my life fighting for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gendered rights and only Pat Quinn has supported our community since the beginning,” said Equality Illinois PAC President Arthur Johnston.
“I have known Pat for 25 years. He has protected the rights of everyone with equal zeal. He is a man of his word,” said Johnston. “On the other hand, Bill Brady opposes equality. He supports the removal of protections for gays and lesbians.”
In addition to voting in 2005 against housing and employment discrimination protections embedded in the Illinois Human Rights Act and later voting to repeal the same law, unsurprisingly, Brady opposes civil unions for gays and lesbians. In fact, in 2006, and again in February 2010, Brady proposed an amendment to the state constitution banning civil unions.
Quinn, however, is actively working to win passage of civil unions legislation, House Bill 2234, sponsored by Harris, according to Johnston.
“He is working for the votes to help pass the civil unions bill,” said Johnston.
Quinn’s Lt. Governor choice, Simon, daughter of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) who hails from deep, down-state Illinois, has also worked in the legal trenches in behalf equality for gay and lesbians, Johnston noted.
“Sheila Simon has worked pro bono in Southern Illinois to help secure second parent adoption for gay and lesbian couples,” said Johnston. “It’s wonderful to know how helpful she has been for equality.”
Though Quinn has waged a worryingly low-wattage general election campaign thus far—slow-walking the appointment of his campaign manager and declining to match Brady’s recent TV ad campaign buy—gay and lesbian activists are, however, fully charged.
With last night’s gushing rain, event organizers were left hoping for 80 guests to show for the Sidetrack fundraiser. They got 140. They were estimating 20 for dinner. They totaled 30. A source says the take for Quinn’s campaign will tally nearly $50,000.
During the dinner, the ever frugal Quinn told me he won’t waste money on advertising in July when voters are paying no attention, but he will be fighting in trench-like warfare in the last eight weeks of the campaign when the election will be decided. Let’s hope.
Meanwhile, on June 27, Quinn will march his message of equality in the streets before the masses, too. Quinn will walk, like last year, the parade route of Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade before what may be an estimated 500,000 faithful, approving spectators.
The likely question from those probable 500,000 parade boosters, which Brady will eventually need to answer before November, is: honestly, what’s the problem with equality?