Balthrops Named 2015 Gala Co-Chairs

2015 Equality Illinois Gala Celebrates Valentine’s Day
Gala Co-Chairs Are Mariterese and Patrick Balthrop

 CHICAGO (December 9, 2014) – Valentine’s Day used to be a day of dread for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, who often felt uncomfortable displaying their true feelings in public.

On this coming Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, 2015, the 2015 Equality Illinois Gala–the Midwest’s largest LGBT formal event–will fill two ballrooms in the Hilton Chicago, making an emphatic public statement that “love is love is love.”

“Our annual extravaganza will feature couples and families for whom love knows no bounds,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. “That is certainly true of the Co-Chairs of the 2015 Equality Illinois Gala that I am very proud to be announcing today.”

Mariterese and Patrick Balthrop

The Co-Chairs are Mariterese and Patrick Balthrop of Chicago. Patrick Balthrop recently retired as CEO of Luminex Corporation. The Balthrops, proud parents of three, are significant supporters of organizations such as Equality Illinois that fight for the LGBT community. Their son, Patrick Jr., 32, is an openly gay sound designer and musician who lives in the New York area with his husband, Dr. Mark Garneau.

“We are honored to be the Co-Chairs for this year’s gala and to play a part in the great work that Equality Illinois does,” said Patrick Balthrop Sr. “We believe strongly that love is love, fair is fair, and right is right. We’re all Americans and should be treated equally. We became involved years ago with the LGBT community and fighting for equal rights due to our son’s sexuality because there is no principle more essentially American than equality.”

Mariterese Balthrop said she remembers well when the first Valentine’s Day approached after their son came out as gay to his family when he was in high school. “He came to me and said, ‘It’s just the straightest holiday in the world. Do you mind if I don’t go to school?’ ”

So the son and mother spent Valentine’s Day in the Boystown area in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood for lunch, and then the whole family had a Valentine’s Day dinner together that night. “It was an amazing afternoon. I was so grateful that neighborhood and the community were there for my son. It was such a beautiful day for me,” she said.

Equality Illinois is inviting families and couples to tell their Valentine’s Day stories on social media with the hashtag #eqillove and will be sharing some of them as the gala approaches.

“Nothing is more fundamental than love, whether that of parent for a child or a couple has for each other, and it’s wonderful to celebrate Valentine’s Day together with the LGBT leaders, allies, community figures, business executives and elected officials of Illinois who have made that open expression of love possible,” Cherkasov said.

The 2015 Equality Illinois Gala begins at 6 PM on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, 2015, in the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, with cocktails and the silent auction of luxury items and fun experiences in the Grand Ballroom. At 8 PM, the expected 1,400 guests move into the International Ballroom for the gourmet dinner and program, followed at 10 PM by dancing till midnight.

More details about special guests and gala honorees will be announced in the weeks ahead.

Tickets and more information about the gala are available at

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