Meeks reaches out to LGBT leaders

Wed. October 6, 2010 4:42 PM by News Staff

Chicago, IL - State Senator and Rev. James Meeks, who is considering a run for Chicago mayor, reached out to influential members of Chicago's LGBT community in a private meeting on Tuesday.

The potential candidacy of Meeks initially raised concerns in the LGBT community because his anti-gay stance is in sharp contrast to that of gay-friendly Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has decided not to seek a 7th term.

"Of the many, many names circulated to run for mayor Senator James Meeks is the most troubling," Equality Illinois public policy director Rick Garcia told last month. "Meeks has been an ardent foe of equality and fairness for LGBT people."

Garcia was one of five LGBT leaders to meet with Meeks on Tuesday afternoon at the offices of Equality Illinois in Lakeview. Also attending the meeting, arranged by Garcia, were Jamal Edwards, CEO of Howard Brown Health Center; Kim Hunt, executive director of Affinity; Pete Sukubiak of AIDS Foundation of Chicago; and John Larson of PFLAG.

"Yesterday was the first day of healthy dialogue and exchange with key members of the GLBT community," Meeks said in a statement on Wednesday. "I was able to share first hand my views and clear up any misperceptions. More importantly, I walked away with a more in depth understanding of their wants and needs."

"He has to come to understand that people don't see a difference between him as a pastor and a politician," Hunt told the Chicago Tribune. "Whatever he says in his church, people assume that's the way he is going to govern."

The 54-year-old Meeks serves as the pastor of Chicago's 22,000 member strong Salem Baptist Church.

In 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) named Meeks one of the "10 leading black religious voices in the anti-gay movement." The Illinois Family Institute, an anti-gay group, lauded Meeks in 2006 for leading African Americans in ‘clearly understanding the threat of gay marriage.' Meeks was criticized for calling homosexuality "an evil sickness."

Meeks also actively campaigned to defeat SB3186, an Illinois LGBT non-discrimination bill, while serving in the Illinois state legislature. He was the only African American in the Illinois Senate and House to vote against the bill. 

On Sept. 11, Meeks told Fox Chicago News that if he's elected mayor, he would be too busy to deprive gay people of their civil rights.

"Now, if I were sitting around bored with nothing to do, that stuff might come up," Meeks said. "But I expect to be so busy with schools, crime and budget problems during my first term that I wouldn't have any time."

Meeks has not officially announced his candidacy. The election filing deadline is December 13.

Related: Meeks reaches out to Garcia (Windy City Times)