Metro Weekly

Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot decries anti-gay flyers handed out near churches

Flyers highlight that Lightfoot is a lesbian and claim she'll give LGBTQ people preferential treatment

Lori Lightfoot – Photo: Facebook.

Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot condemned misleading flyers that have been distributed to parishioners at majority-black churches on the South Side that highlight her sexual orientation and claim she will give preferential treatment to members of the LGBTQ community.

On one side of the flyer is a picture of Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshelman, with a sign beneath the couple reading: “The Gay Equality Act!!! It’s our turn.” Below that, is a line reading: 1st openly gay woman in City Hall,” and above the couple is another line reading: “The Feminist and Gay Movement Have Come Full Circle.”

The backside of the flyer reads: “All contracts, jobs and employment newly assigned exclusively to gay people!”

“With our people in City Hall, I promise to enforce the Gay Equality Act,” the flyer continues. “With our people in City Hall, I promise to enforce the Gay Equality Act: All churches will abide by the gay marriage laws. All public restrooms will be gender-free. All Public Schools will teach Gay History by mandate. School Restrooms must be DE-SEGREGATED.”

The bottom of the flyer reads: “We would like to thank Rickey Hendon [chief of staff for former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson, who has endorsed Lightfoot] for introducing the Gay Equality Act in Springfield.”

There is no Gay Equality Act, though Illinois law already prohibits discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There is a bill called the Equality Act, which has been introduced in Congress, and would provide protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit, as well as other areas.

Discussion of Lightfoot’s sexuality can be considered a double-edged sword: while the nature of Lightfoot’s historic candidacy is considered a plus in progressive circles, it may be a detriment in wards that have historically been more socially conservative, whether it’s the farther-out majority-white wards where many “Reagan Democrats” make their homes, or parts of the South Side, where black evangelical churches may have an outsized influence on the lives and political beliefs of some residents. 

On Monday, Lightfoot held a news conference at City Hall in which she denounced the flyers, saying: “We’ll have more to say about this in the coming days. But simply put, hate has no place in Chicago.”

“Particularly in the context of a horrible terrorist event in Christchurch [New Zealand], the fear that has struck in the Muslim community here — any attempts by anyone to propagate hate, we have to stand together as a city and denounce it unequivocally because hate can have no place in our city,” Lightfoot added.

She also promised to “keep moving forward with a positive message.”

“I feel honored and overwhelmed by the incredible support that we have received from neighborhoods and communities all over the city — from places that actually voted for other people leading into the Feb. 26 election,” Lightfoot said.

“I feel very confident — if we keep working hard and stay focused and not let these kinds of things derail us — we are gonna have a broad mandate for change in this city.”

Lightfoot is running against Cook County Board President and former Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle in the April 2 mayoral runoff. In the candidates’ first debate following the Feb. 26 first-round election, Preckwinkle and Lightfoot were asked to say something positive about one another, and Preckwinkle complimented Lightfoot about being open about her sexual orientation.

But LGBTQ advocates, including Lightfoot and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), for the comments, accusing Preckwinkle of attempting to send out a homophobic dog whistle to conservative voters by reminding them of that Lightfoot is a lesbian.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which advocates for the election of openly LGBTQ candidates to public office and has endorsed Lightfoot, also condemned the flyers and accused Preckwinkle of engaging in gay-baiting tactics.

“Homophobic forces attempting to detail Lori’s historic candidacy are using the politics of hate and fear to mobilize anti-LGBTQ voters for Toni Preckwinkle,” former Houston Mayor and Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker said in a statement.

“The attack flyers are infused with mischaracterizations of the LGBTQ community and the laws that protect them — including bigoted stereotypes that are too often used against LGBTQ candidates when their opponents get desperate,” Parker added. “Chicagoans, regardless of who they support, must speak out forcefully against efforts to mobilize voters through bigotry.”

Preckwinkle also condemned the flyers on her official Twitter account.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms any rhetoric or actions from any person or group that suggests prejudice or discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community,” she wrote. “There is no place in Chicago, or any society, for intolerance of our LGBTQ community.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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