EQIL Insider Scoop - April 2014



In the APRIL EQIL Insider Scoop:


Protecting Our Youth
Success at the Ballot Box
EQIL Briefing with Sen. Durbin
In Memoriam
Vernita Gray
Greg Gravemier
Get Married at the MCA
LGBT Equality Institute
First Friday
Marriage Equality Financial Forum
How to Succeed…at Equality
Transgender Social
Spring Wine Tasting
Events Calendar


State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and state Sen. William Delgado, the chief House and Senate sponsors of the Youth Mental Health Protection Act

PROTECTING OUR YOUTH = Last week, the Illinois House Human Services Committee approved HB5569, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, by a bipartisan 9 to 6 vote. The bill is now moving to the Illinois House of Representatives, and it could be voted on in the next two weeks. Equality Illinois is calling on the General Assembly to protect all vulnerable minors by passing the bill, and we need your help!

Call your Illinois House Representative today to ask for a YES vote on HB5569.

This bill would prohibit mental health providers in Illinois from engaging in any effort to change the sexual orientation of anyone under the age of 18. In other words, it would stop the use of so-called “conversion therapies” for youth that deceitfully purport to “cure” people of being gay. These practices have actually proven to be very harmful and are actively opposed by leading mental health and medical professional groups.


SUCCESS AT THE BALLOT BOX = lllinoisans who believe in fairness and equality secured a decisive victory in the March 18 Illinois primary with a substantial boost by the efforts of Equality Illinois. Everyone who contributed a dollar, made a call, knocked on a door or just got out to vote demonstrated that the LGBT community and allies will stand up for those who stand up for us

Not a single lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – who voted for the freedom to marry lost due to support of the marriage bill.

For the primary election, the Equality Illinois Political Action Committee spent an unprecedented $150,000, including $130,000 in direct contributions to candidates, and built an aggressive voter persuasion and get-out-the vote effort that targeted high-priority districts.



The latest Equality Illinois Briefing, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, featured U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the U.S. Senate assistant majority leader, pictured with EQIL CEO Bernard Cherkasov. Sen. Durbin spoke at the Willis Tower headquarters of United Airlines, the exclusive airline of Equality Illinois.


EQIL founder Arthur Johnston (on left) worked alongside Vernita Gray for many years in the fight for LGBT rights.

A fighter for LGBT equality for over four decades, including eight years on the board of Equality Illinois, Vernita Gray made history again last November when she and her longtime partner Patricia Ewert became the first same-sex couple to wed in Illinois thanks to a judge’s order. Vernita, a Chicago resident, passed away last month after a long battle with cancer.
Equality Illinois offers our condolences to her widow Patricia and to Vernita’s family and extended network of friends.
Equality Illinois founder Arthur Johnston, speaking to WGN-TV about Vernita, said, “Even in her final fight she turned her own illness into a rallying cry to move the same-sex marriage date up, and she was successful in that. One of the great icons of our community is gone. We will all miss her terribly.”




Greg Gravemier

Greg Gravemier was instrumental in bringing LGBT visibility and activism to central Illinois. Greg passed away March 15 in Sterling, Virginia. Equality Illinois offers our condolences to his partner of 37 years, Leland Roth, and to their family and friends.


In the 1990s, Greg and Leland took over a new organization, GLAD–Gay Lesbian Association of Decatur. “Greg and Leland were smart, outgoing, and tactful in dealing with people with varied viewpoints.  But, most importantly, they were out!  Greg could talk to any kind of group and generate a level of acceptance, even when approval was not possible,” said Buff Carmichael, a longtime Springfield LGBT activist and friend of the couple.

For his work, Greg was awarded the first Equality Illinois Freedom Award in 1998.



GET MARRIED AT THE MCA = Equality Illinois and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) are joining forces for a day of wedding celebrations on Monday, June 2!

To commemorate the passage of the historic legislation guaranteeing the right of all people in Illinois to marry, the MCA will open its galleries and sculpture garden to offer complimentary ceremonies and post-ceremony festivities for up to 15 couples. Couples who are selected to be part of this event will receive a wedding ceremony in the museum, followed by a half-hour celebration (champagne and petit fours included) for up to 20 guests. The deadline to enter is Friday, April 18.




Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 17, 9 am to 5:30 pm,
for the LGBT Equality Institute, a day-long conference presented by
Equality Illinois in partnership with Lambda Legal.The institute is geared at bringing together our state’s LGBT community and allies, progressive advocates, and community groups to discuss the issues that affect us all. Join us to learn more about what is next for our movement, garner more practical skills, and share your feedback on new potential priorities in Illinois.Registration costs $50 per person. This includes admission to the institute in the Embassy Suites Downtown Chicago, continental breakfast, and a box lunch panel discussion. Space is limited – click here to register today!Scholarships are available to those with financial need. For more information on scholarships, please e-mail info@eqil.org.Topics for the day will include transgender equality, safe schools, homelessness, healthcare access, senior care issues, immigration, federal initiatives and policy, politics and more.We currently seek knowledgeable individuals and organizations to submit proposals to host interactive presentations during the event. Click here to submit a proposal for a presentationDeadline to submit proposals is Friday, April 11.





FIRST FRIDAY = Join the Equality Illinois PAC on Friday, April 4 for the popular and fun monthly social! This month, First Friday features the Porchlight Music Theatre and its spring production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical.

A great crowd always joins us for First Friday, so please come by for the fun, cocktails, musicals, and door prize drawings. For a $10 donation at the door to the Equality Illinois PAC, you receive two drink tickets and a ticket to be entered in our door prize drawing. Friday, April 4, 6–8pm @ Sidetrack, 3349 North Halsted Street in Chicago (21+ with ID).

Contributions support Equality Illinois PAC. Paid for by Equality Illinois PAC. Contributions are not tax deductible. A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the Board’s official website, elections.il.gov, or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois. State law requires that we report the occupation and name of the employer of any individual who contributes over $500.00.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY FINANCIAL FORUM = The Federal Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is hosting a forum Unraveling the Financial Confusion Before You Tie the Knot featuring EQIL CEO Bernard Cherkasov discussing the new marriage equality law in Illinois.

This will be a good opportunity to learn how the new freedom to marry impacts your taxes, benefits and more.

Join us at the Fed, for the forum, part of its Money Smart Week, in Chicago’s Loop on Tuesday, April 8 at 6-7:30 pm.



HOW TO SUCCEED…AT EQUALITY = Join Porchlight Music Theatre and Equality Illinois for the LGBTQ Night at How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Friday, May 2.

Award-winning Porchlight Music Theatre presents the Tony and Pulitzer prize-winning musical comedy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

USE the code EQUALITY when purchasing tickets and a portion of every ticket sold is donated to Equality Illinois. More information and tickets are available at 773.327.5252 or they can be purchased ONLINE.

TRANSGENDER SOCIAL = Hold the date! Sunday, May 4, 3 to 6 pm is the Equality Illinois Transgender Social at the Mayne Stage in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Stay tuned for more information about the always festive event.

Set aside time for the annual Spring Wine Tasting at Sidetrack on Wednesday, May 7. General admission opens at 6:30 pm, and VIP access starts at 5:30 pm to give you the first tastings of the always premium selections.

Your ticket purchase supports the work of Equality Illinois, and you can have a fabulous time doing it! (Must be 21 or over with ID.)

Click here to buy tickets for VIP access.      Click here for general admission tickets.


Stay up-to-date on community events on our website www.eqil.org

Relive the fun and excitement of the Equality Illinois 2014 Gala with videos of the program and hundreds of pictures (available for purchase) of the guests, the celebs and the dancing!


If you would like an Equality Illinois speaker at your event at work, a local civic organization, on campus, a union meeting, your religious group, a home EQIL fundraiser, or wherever, please contact us at info@eqil.org or call 773-477-7173.

Stay informed of LGBT-equality matters by visiting us at www.eqil.org.  Also, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.  

We can only succeed in our mission if you stand with us, so please make a financial contribution today.