Chicago, IL -
A full house of nearly 1,500 people is expected at the 2018 Equality Illinois
Gala on Saturday
night to hear about the successes and ongoing challenges of building a stronger Illinois in the face of national headwinds against LGBTQ civil rights.
The gala, which benefits the yearlong statewide LGBTQ civil rights work of Equality Illinois Institute, will recognize Planned Parenthood of Illinois, transgender youth activist Jazz Jennings
, and longtime LGBTQ activist Jim Bennett. Guests will also hear from three Illinois residents who will speak on the multidimensional work of the organization and how their lives have been directly impacted by it.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and 100 other elected officials and candidates will be introduced, plus community members, dignitaries, and allied supporters plan to attend the gala, which is annually the Midwest's largest LGBTQ formal celebration, on Saturday, February 3,2018 at the Hilton Chicago. Some of the world's most recognizable corporate and brand names are among the sponsors of the event.
"On the national level we are seeing a really big rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment, particularly from the administration in Washington," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois. "Seeing that happen in Washington, so many of our allies and champions in the state just were willing to say those efforts and actions don't represent our values here in Illinois, and it's incumbent upon us to make sure that Illinois demonstrates its values of being a fully equal and inclusive state. We will be celebrating that commitment at the gala."
Three significant legislative wins over the last year, achieved with bipartisan support, include laws to end the anti-LGBTQ panic defense, modernize the state law so transgender Illinoisans can get correct birth certificates without surgery, and build LGBTQ representation on state boards and commissions.
"However, our conversations with LGBTQ people throughout Illinois bring home the challenges they continue to face in our schools, in accessing health care, and in the criminal justice system, and we will be discussing at the gala how we plan to tackle those issues in the years ahead," Johnson said.
The three honorees will be recognized Saturday
night for working to improve the lives of LGBTQ people. For her activism on behalf of her fellow transgender youth, Jazz Jennings will be honored as the first recipient of the Equality Illinois Spotlight Award. The 2018 Freedom Award will be presented to Jim Bennett, recently retired after 11 years at Lambda Legal, for his work throughout the Midwest fighting for LGBTQ rights, including chairing the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition. Planned Parenthood of Illinois will receive the Business Leadership Award for its century of providing reproductive health care and expansion in recent years into providing transgender health care services.
Gov. Rauner and Mayor Emanuel will give brief remarks to lead off the gala dinner. Other public officials and candidates who are planning to attend include former Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Reps. Robin Kelly, Mike Quigley, and Brad Schneider, Secretary of State Jesse White, state Treasurer Michael Frerichs, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County State's Atty. Kim Foxx, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers, and many other state legislators, county commissioners, aldermen, judges, and candidates.
Illinois businesses and the state's philanthropic community continue to provide robust support for the gala and the ongoing work of Equality Illinois.
The Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 Equality Illinois Gala is United Airlines.
Platinum Sponsors are Breakthru Beverage Illinois, GCM Grosvenor, Hilton Chicago, Sidetrack
, and Bruce and Diana Rauner.
Gold Sponsors are JB and MK Pritzker, TAWANI Foundation, MillerCoors, Takeda, and Fred Eychaner, Alphawood Foundation.
Silver Sponsors are Laura and Brooke Ricketts, McDermott Will & Emery, Morgan Stanley, Kirkland & Ellis, C.N.A., and Exelon.
Bronze Sponsors are Hinshaw & Culbertson, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, Walgreens, BMO Harris, Eileen Dordek and Chris Landgraff, Seyfarth Shaw, Chapman and Cutler, Sidley Austin, Schiff Hardin, Allstate, DLA Piper, Katten Muchin Rosenman, Akerman, Supergurl Images, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.