Lightfoot, city’s only openly gay mayoral candidate, unveils LGBTQ policy agenda
The only openly gay candidate in the crowded race for mayor on Thursday chose National Coming Out Day to lift the veil on her policy agenda for the politically potent LGBTQ community.
If Lori Lightfoot is elected mayor, the Chicago Public Schools would work to establish “24-hour drop-in centers” to provide LGBTQ youth now struggling with homelessness places to sleep and lockers to store their belongings.
CPS would also implement an “LGBTQ+inclusive curriculum” to prevent bullying against students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lightfoot’s agenda also calls for the appointment of three mayoral LGBTQ liaisons to work directly with the South, West and North sides.
Chicago police officers would get special training to end police profiling of transgender people, prevent violence and hate crimes against them and aggressively investigate those crimes when they do happen.
She also would create a task force to investigate the recent murder of “two trans women of color.”
The former Police Board president promised to “ramp up” that eradication campaign while conducting a “detailed study of health care outcomes” for LGBTQ Chicagoans.
Lightfoot said the need for 24-hour drop-in centers was crystallized by the heartbreaking stories she heard this week from gay teens, most of them African-Americans, while visiting a North Side drop-in center.
“They don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods. They don’t feel accepted. They have all kinds of encounters with police. And they’re homeless because they’re not being accepted by their families. Many of them are on the street,” Lightfoot said.
“This center that I went to — there were about 20 people there . ... For every one person they help, there are probably four or five that are on the street that don’t have access to services. A significant percentage of the homeless population is LGBTQ. It’s heartbreaking.”
Lightfoot noted the Chicago Police Department has only one LGBTQ liaison for the entire city.
“There are trans women who were killed on the South Side. And members of that community don’t feel like the police department is bringing the level of rigor and resources to investigating those murders that they have in other communities,” she said.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Chicago’s first openly gay alderman, acknowledged that homelessness remains a major problem among gay youth.
But he argued that Lake View has had a 24-hour shelter known as “The Crib” for LGBTQ youth for at least a decade. Chicago can’t afford to duplicate that at public schools, he said.
“It’s pretty expensive to keep a school open all night long. Do I endorse opening public schools at night? Not unless I have the financial impact of what that involves,” Tunney said.
Tunney agreed with Lightfoot about the need for an LGBTQ liaison in every one of the city’s 22 police districts, instead of just one in his home Town Hall district.
“There are lesbian and gay people in every neighborhood, and they need to have safe spaces. Not only where they can be themselves, but also where the police are sensitive and more sensitive than they’ve been citywide,” the alderman said.