LGBT hall of fame inducts new members

By Hallie Zolkower-Kutz

The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame honored twelve inductees for their contributions to the advancement of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender communities Nov. 12 at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark Street.

Three organizations were also honored at the ceremony: The Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, a group focused on HIV and AIDS prevention; the Chi-Town Squares, a dance group that brings LGBT and non-LGBT members together; and Proud to Run, Chicago, which sponsors rallies and races that raise money for local LGBT groups.

Awards were presented by Mona Noriega, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Relations, state Rep. Deb Mell (D-40th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Among this year’s 12 inductees were Sanford Gaylord, an HIV and AIDS activist; Dr. William Greaves, a former member of the Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues; and Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Being inducted into the hall of fame indicates that honorees have made contributions that impact more than just LGBT communities, said Danny Kopelson, an AIDS fundraiser who was inducted

in 2000.

“I’m very proud to be part of this group of people who I think really have contributed a lot [to the] LGBT community, but also to the wider city,” Kopelson said.

The recognition also spreads awareness of the accomplishments of LGBT activists, Kopelson said.

“It shows and recognizes a long history, because it isn’t just people doing things today,” he said. “It’s also people who have done things posthumously, and it shows the history of our community and what we have done to make Chicago and this country a better place.”

Chicago has the only lesbian-and gay-centered hall of fame in the country, according to Suzanne Kraus, a 2004 inductee and emcee of the event. Christina Pinson, president and CEO of the Chicago Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, said the city is fairly advanced in terms of its treatment of  the LGBT population.

“The fact that we have a geographically designated LGBT neighborhood is pretty phenomenal, and most cities don’t have that,” Pinson said. “[The hall of fame] is another example of an amazing thing that [the city has] done, and I think that overall it’s

pretty incredible.”

Emanuel emphasized that equality for the LGBT community is one of his top priorities.

“We need to make sure Illinois is on the record for marriage equality,” Emanuel said. “A lot has been accomplished, but a lot more has to be done.”

Same-sex couples in Illinois have been able to enter into civil unions since 2011, but several attempts to introduce a marriage equality bill to the state General Assembly have been postponed indefinitely, according to the Illinois General

Assembly website.

As the fight for marriage equality continues, Emanuel said the LGBT Hall of Fame continues to honor prominent members of the community, especially those who contributed to the advancement of the city.

“Not only is the LGBT society making [its] community stronger, they are making the city of Chicago stronger,” he said.

Kraus said she feels like the community is coming together.

“We’ve been very blessed over the past few decades,” Kraus said. “We’ve had really solid friends in the larger community who have done a lot to help us.”

Kopelson said the LGBT community can contribute to the city’s betterment by furthering its

own movement.

“Any community is part of the greater whole,” he said. “I think the LGBT community represents a large portion of [the] city, and anything we contribute to our own community contributes to the city as

a whole.”