Archive for the ‘About Us’ Category


FY19 Annual Report

May 4, 2020

2019 was one of the most productive legislative sessions for LGBTQ rights in Illinois history!

Equality Illinois has been in awe of the power of our community and the courage of our allies so much over the past year.  While we worked on many bills last session, we are most inspired by the impact two key bills will have. The Inclusive Curriculum Act will ensure that Illinois young people will learn about the rich contributions of LGBTQ people to our shared history.  With the Equal Access Restroom Act, we have helped Illinois move one step closer in ensuring that public spaces are safe and affirming for our trans siblings.

This came on the heels of nearly 10,000 Illinoisans stepping up and taking a pro-equality civic action with Equality Illinois.  We contacted legislators, we signed up to vote, and we supported pro-LGBTQ public leaders.

None of this would have been possible without you.  As our supporters, our partners, and our public officials, you have made sure Illinois is one of the most LGBTQ inclusive states in the country.

Thank you!  On behalf of the over 400,000 LGBTQ Illinoisans who rely on us to advocate fiercely for them, thank you!


Emerging Leaders Circle

February 9, 2019


Equality Illinois is seeking a select, powerful, active group of young professionals to become the next generation of LGBTQ leaders. Equality Illinois envisions a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and where all people live freely regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or gender expression.

Ask yourself these questions:

  •  Are you 35 or younger?
  •  Do you care about advancing LGBTQ equality throughout our state?
  •  Do you believe in Equality Illinois’ key priorities: Policy, People, and Power?

POLICY–We defend our civil rights wins from anti-LGBTQ attacks and advance pro-LGBTQ policies with a focus on education, health care, and criminal justice.

PEOPLE–We work to get LGBTQ leaders in positions of influence throughout the state with an emphasis on placing LGBTQ Illinoisans on key state boards and commissions.

POWER–We create a civically-powerful statewide network of LGBTQ champions by identifying, training, and supporting LGBTQ and allied community groups throughout the state so they can grow and embolden their base.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, become an Equality Illinois emerging leader! Participation begins at $50/month or $600/year. Membership in The Emerging Leaders Circle includes recognition in our Annual Report, advanced notice of upcoming events, and complimentary entry to our Pre-Pride Parade reception.


Equality Illinois 2019 Gala

January 8, 2019



President Obama named him one of four Democrats who represented the future of the Democratic Party and the New York Times ran a column saying that he could be the nation’s “first gay President.”

South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, a rising national star among Democrats, will be the keynote speaker at the 2019 Gala presented by United, set to begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 2 at the Hilton Chicago.

This year’s Gala is chaired by community leader Nabeela Rasheed and is on track to be one of our most successful and vibrant yet! Each year we award inspirational leaders and organizations whose selfless work helps create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. This year for their dedication to social justice and equality, Channyn Lynne Parker of Howard Brown’s Broadway Youth Center, and Danny Wirtz the Vice-Chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group will be the recipients of the 2019 Equality Illinois Freedom Award. The Equality Illinois Organization Leadership Award, given annually to organizations that demonstrate remarkable vision, courage, and leadership in the efforts to achieve full equality for LGBTQ individuals in Illinois, will be presented to Illinois AFL-CIO.



January 5, 2019

With the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans under attack by the Trump Administration and the urgent need to continue our pro-equality progress in the City of Chicago, LGBTQ Chicagoans need to know where the candidates for mayor stand on the many issues of interest and importance to our lives.

LGBTQ community organizations Affinity Community Services, the Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action, the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, the Equality Illinois Institute, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Pride Action Tank, and the Windy City Times are hosting the LGBTQ Forum with the Mayoral Candidates at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at the Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Avenue, in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood.

Please join us at this important public forum. To attend, please RSVP by clicking on the register button.

Can’t make it to the LGBTQ Mayoral Forum but still have questions for the candidates? Submit your questions by clicking on the question submission button.

This event precedes Chicago’s mayoral election on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.


Equality Illinois 2019 Gala

January 3, 2019


We are just 30 days away from the largest LGBTQ equality event in the Midwest! Have you LOCK in your tickets???

This year’s Gala is chaired by community leader Nabeela Rasheed, and is on track to be one of our most successful and vibrant yet!  Each year we award inspirational leaders and organizations whose selfless work helps create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. This year we will celebrate and honor Channyn Lynne Parker, Danny Wirtz, and the Illinois AFL-CIO.


Year-End Giving

December 26, 2018

As Equality Illinois comes to the end of another successful year of serving LGBTQ Illinoisans, we want to THANK YOU for your contributions and volunteer service! Today, we are calling on your support to participate in our annual “Year-End Giving Campaign” as we continue to pave a future free of bias, bigotry, and discrimination. Your contribution will continue work that proves hate is not an Illinois value. In 2019 we look forward to continuing to be a shining example of what it means to standing on the frontlines of social and political advocacy.

Your commitment of a “Year End” pledge or a one time annual gift, will allow Equality Illinois an opportunity to continue our legacy and tradition of education, advocacy, and service for years to come.

For any other gifts please contact our Director of Corporate Partnerships & Individual Giving, Melissa Benge at mbenge@eqil.org  or 773.477.7173.


Equality Illinois 2019 Gala

December 13, 2018

Now is the time to LOCK in your tickets and seating for the largest LGBTQ equality event in the Midwest and one of the largest in the country!

WE invite YOU to Equality Illinois’ 2019 Gala presented by United Airlines and hosted by Hilton Chicago taking place Feb 2, 2019.

This year’s Gala is chaired by community leader Nabeela Rasheed, and is on track to be one of our most successful and vibrant yet!  Each year we award inspirational leaders and organizations whose selfless work helps create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. This year we will celebrate and honor Channyn Lynne Parker, Danny Wirtz, and the Illinois AFL-CIO.



December 11, 2018

The Capitol Club is the premier donor group and the backbone of Equality Illinois. As a donor, you are investing in the vital work of Equality Illinois–statewide campaigns that promote fair treatment for LGBTQ citizens of Illinois. Your membership in the Capitol Club is a partnership with Equality Illinois and an investment in our joint fight for equality.

As a Capitol Club member, you have unique access to the decision makers within Equality Illinois. You’ll receive exclusive informational updates, access to private events throughout the year, and opportunities for discounts on select events and activities. The Capitol Club is much more than a donor group. It is a nucleus of support, influence and leadership that works relentlessly for equitable change.

You may opt to make your Capitol Club contribution through a convenient monthly payment plan. All Capital Club contributions benefit the Equality Illinois Institute, our 501(c)(3) organization, and are fully tax-deductible as provided by law. Capitol Club memberships are automatically renewed annually.



Three New Laws Advance LGBTQ Equality in 2018

January 1, 2018

Three pro-LGBTQ equality laws that were legislative priorities for Equality Illinois go into effect with the new year. As of Jan. 1, 2018, laws that ban the anti-LGBTQ panic defense, modernize birth certificate changes, and encourage LGBTQ public leadership opportunities will help build a better Illinois.

“Across the country, we have seen attacks on the LGBTQ community increase in number and fervor,” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s LGBTQ civil rights organization. “But in Illinois in 2017, we demonstrated that we can fight back and win thanks to the hard work of LGBTQ Illinoisans and our allies and the support of leaders in the Statehouse.

But challenges remain and our work continues in 2018.



Illinois Scores Unprecedented LGBTQ Legislative Victories

August 29, 2017

On the same day last week that President Trump rolled back rights for transgender Americans, two new civil rights advances for LGBTQ Illinoisans became law. One week earlier, a third new LGBTQ-affirming policy became law in Illinois. These bills were all part of the Equality Illinois 2017 Legislative Agenda.

We need your help to continue our aggressive and effective advocacy in Springfield and keep Illinois at the forefront of LGBTQ civil rights, especially as we face the headwinds coming from this White House.


Equality Illinois PAC Makes Endorsements

September 22, 2016

pac-fb-meme-2016The Equality Illinois PAC announces endorsements of 51 candidates, including Susana A. Mendoza for Illinois State Comptroller and state legislative candidates, in the general election on November 8, 2016.

“The opponents of LGBT equality and inclusion are determined to stop progress towards full equality,” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois.

“We must be vigilant in our work to secure and defend our hard-fought victories and values. Electorally, we must elect those candidates who stand with LGBT Illinoisans.”

Read more


Art Johnston Honored for Making History

June 9, 2016

CONGRATULATES V2Congratulations to Equality Illinois co-founder Art Johnston for receiving the Jane Addams Making History Award for Distinction in Social Service from the Chicago History Museum in recognition of his decades of advocacy on behalf of LGBT Illinoisans.

After the presentation by Chicago Cubs co-owner and LGBT activist Laura Ricketts during a gala dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel, Johnston, owner of Sidetrack Bar, said the honor is significant because it ties together two words seldom heard together, “gay” and “history.”

“Every single evil that has ever been visited on my community is the result of the fact that we have been removed from history intentionally because ours is an inconvenient truth,” Johnston said. “Denying the most vulnerable among us—our kids—the knowledge that people like them matter, that they will always matter even if no one bothered to tell them so.”



Equality Illinois Names Brian C. Johnson as CEO

April 26, 2016
Brian C. Johnson

Brian C. Johnson

Equality Illinois’ work on behalf of LGBT Illinoisans and their families enters its second quarter century under a new leader who has a history of social justice advocacy, building diverse coalitions and improving educational outcomes for youth.

Named today as the Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois is Brian C. Johnson, who currently serves as a Vice President at Leadership for Educational Equity, a national organization that works to get teachers and former teachers more politically and civically active. Johnson, a former public school teacher, has spent more than a decade leading high profile advocacy campaigns, including those centered on social justice and youth issues.

As Johnson takes over, Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans, is celebrating its 25th anniversary year with a mission to continue its work “Until We’re All Equal,” a mission that Johnson fully embraces.



Thank you, Bernard

March 29, 2016

Branding meme - national reachAs we say thank you to our CEO Bernard Cherkasov, who is departing this week, we appreciate how he has helped to give Equality Illinois and the LGBT Illinoisans and families we represent a seat at the national policy table. He’s led multiple delegations to Washington to meet with officials, including this meeting with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Bernard’s work for seven years has built a strong organization that will continue our work UNTIL WE’RE ALL EQUAL.

Thank you, Bernard.


Equality Illinois News

February 1, 2016

Newsletter front Feb 2016Check out the fresh, new format for our monthly newsletter, out today.

We bring you the news of Equality Illinois and the movement for working toward a lived equality for LGBT Illinoisans.

Take a look, and signup for our monthly newsletter and other mailings so you can stay informed about the issues and the events that shape them.




Thank you, Bernard

January 21, 2016

Bernard announcement - FB memeEquality Illinois’ CEO Bernard Cherkasov is stepping down later this year.

Bernard was at the forefront of the campaigns for passage of civil unions and marriage equality in Illinois, as well as legislation that enhances hate crime protections and protects LGBT youth through strengthened anti-bullying policies and a conversion therapy ban.

He’ll remain at the helm while the search for a successor gets underway.



New Look, Enduring Commitment

January 14, 2016



Best Nine of 2015

December 31, 2015

EQIL Best Nine 2015Best Nine of 2015: Here are the most-liked memes from Equality Illinois this year from Instagram.

Top row (l-r): Celebrating the Supreme Court decision recognizing the national right to same-sex marriage, and the White House illuminated in a rainbow in honor of the ruling. Also our statement in support of accepting refugees.

Middle row: Entertainer Lea DeLaria accepting the Freedom Award at our 2015 gala; a statement in support of racial and social justice in the aftermath of the Laquan McDonald shooting; and going purple for ‪#‎SpiritDay‬

Bottom row: Standing with Planned Parenthood; participating in the Carbondale Pride Picnic, part of our work throughout Illinois; our advocacy on behalf of banning conversion therapy concluding with the governor’s signature.


EQIL PAC to host Pat Quinn

December 21, 2015

Quinn meme for pac websiteOn January 14, join former Governor Pat Quinn in supporting the Equality Illinois Political Action Committee and our work to elect pro-equality candidates.

Let’s defend our victories and elect pro-LGBT equality candidates in the critical 2016 elections.

Together, we will ensure Illinois continues to lead the Midwest in advancing equal rights for LGBT people.



Equality Illinois PAC Hosts David Axelrod

November 6, 2015

Axe_colorThe Equality Illinois Political Action Committee (EQIL PAC) will host a conversation on November 17 with renowned political strategist David Axelrod about the stakes and opportunities for Illinoisans in the 2016 election.

Axelrod is uniquely qualified to provide analysis about electoral and political activities and trends in Illinois and the United States. A former political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Axelrod has managed strategy for more than 150 political campaigns, was Senior Strategist for President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and served as Senior Advisor to the President. He is now Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.

Through candidate questionnaires, endorsements, campaign contributions and field support, the Equality Illinois PAC works to secure and defend the equal rights of LGBT people in Illinois. The Equality Illinois PAC is the only political action committee in Illinois that is dedicated to electing individuals to public office who will fight for the equal rights of LGBT Illinoisans.



$25 for 25 years

September 28, 2015

Art JohnstonA special message from Art Johnston, Equality Illinois co-founder:

As we enter Equality Illinois’ 25th year, I look back in astonishment at what we accomplished together, and feel so positive about our collective ability to tackle the challenges ahead.

If you went out in the 1970s to a bar where gay and trans people gathered, there was a chance that you wouldn’t get home that night, that the bar would be raided, you would get arrested, the media alerted, and the next day you would find yourself described in your hometown paper as a regular at a ‘pervert’ bar. And then, you could – legally – get fired from your job.

That may sound like ancient history. But as recently as 2005, in most of our state, you could be legally fired from your job, legally denied an apartment or service at a restaurant if the person in charge didn’t like LGBT people. And let me tell you: the rights and protections that we as a community have today are a result of years and years of work by community activists, courageous legislators, and the loud and proud support of our entire community.

We absolutely cannot do this without you and our community is counting on you to step up — make your donation of $25 or more to celebrate 25 years of advances for equality by clicking HERE.

Our community has come a very long way, but translating the legal victories into actual, lived equality is work that takes focused effort and vigilance. The transgender community in particular still faces disproportionate rates of violence and widespread lack of access to quality healthcare. LGBTQ-identified students are still more likely to be bullied in schools.

So how do we, after such momentous victories, keep going to ensure full, lived equality for all in our community – especially those most vulnerable? One way is by supporting the work of Equality Illinois. Regardless of whether you’ve given generously in the past, or just now have the chance,  please join me in recommitting to the crucial next steps in Illinois for this movement.

This is your perfect opportunity: all donations made in September will be doubled, as Equality Illinois enters its 25th year. Contribute $25 to celebrate 25 years, and MillerCoors will double that to fuel Equality Illinois’ important work that lies ahead.



Ten Things To Be Proud of from 2014

December 30, 2014
EQIL 2014 Accomplishments

(Clockwise) Marriage equality begins in Illinois, President Obama signs anti-discrimination executive order, V-Card campaign, anti-bullying bill, LGBT Equality Institute

This has been a year for which we should all be proud.

With sweeping advances at the state and federal levels, the LGBT community in Illinois and nationally have taken great steps to full equality.

We at Equality Illinois are honored to work alongside you and our countless community allies to help make this possible.

Please take a moment to consider a contribution to our work going forward.




Election Day Endorsements

November 3, 2014

EQIL PAC Endorsements 2014

Governor Pat Quinn’s leading role in achieving first civil unions and then marriages for same-sex couples, his open and inclusive administration, and his strong support for policies that protect LGBT students from bullying and LGBT workers from discrimination make Governor Quinn the choice of the Equality Illinois Political Action Committee, the only statewide PAC focused on LGBT issues.

In other statewide races, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White–two Democrats–and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka–a Republican–were there for us during the crucial fight for the freedom to marry in Illinois. And with their votes in the legislature, Rep. Tom Cross, a Republican, and Sen. Mike Frerichs, a Democrat, were critical in the marriage bill’s narrow victory.

As with the statewide endorsements, the choices for the General Assembly reflect the commitment of Equality Illinois PAC to recognize candidates from both sides of the aisle for their support of LGBT issues.



New EQIL Chairs Spearhead Ambitious Agenda

October 21, 2014

Three new board chairs will lead Equality Illinois at protecting full implementation of the new freedom to marry in Illinois, advocating a national agenda including passage of broad workplace protections, and implementing fresh approaches on a broad range of issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans.

Grant Gochnauer, a technology entrepreneur, is the new chair of the board of Equality Illinois, overseeing the policy advocacy work of the organization. Anthony D. D’Amato, an attorney, is the new chair of the board of Equality Illinois Education Project, the educational arm of Equality Illinois that concentrates on community outreach, issue education, and building alliances. As the new chair of the Equality Illinois Political Action Committee, Nicole Bashor, a patent attorney, leads the political affiliate of Equality Illinois.

Chairs 2014



Equality Illinois PAC Makes Bipartisan Endorsements

October 7, 2014

The Equality Illinois Political Action Committee (Equality Illinois PAC) today endorses the re-election of Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, Secretary of State Jesse White and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in the Nov. 4 General Election.

With no incumbent in the race for treasurer, Equality Illinois PAC, endorses both candidates, state Rep. Tom Cross, a Republican, and state Sen. Mike Frerichs, a Democrat.

These bipartisan endorsements in statewide contests follow the support announced in September for the re-election of Gov. Pat Quinn, which is being backed by an aggressive Equality Illinois PAC get-out-the-vote effort.