You know the race for Mayor of Chicago is getting serious when one of the most staunch opponents to GLBTQ equality puts his tail between his legs and shuffles up to Boystown. That's what happened Tuesday, according to published reports. Rev. James Meeks, who has a record of leading his megachurch's flock down the anti-gay path with explosive rhetoric, met with a concentrated group of GLBTQ leaders at the offices of Equality Illinois.
Gay Chicago Magazine gave a particularly detailed report of what happened in the nearly two-hour meeting Tuesday, October 5. According to the story, representatives of Equality Illinois, Affinity Community Services, Howard Brown Health Center and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago attended. Notably, no officials from Test Positive Aware Network, Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, Human Rights Campaign Fund, nor any other community or political group, were reported as present at the meeting.
Meeks had to do this meeting. No one in Chicago who really wants to get elected on the North Side since the mid-70s has been able to get there without at least a nod from the Gays. There are few exceptions to this rule. The GLBTQ community was massively activated to support President Barack Obama's 2008 landslide. When you add to this the reality that the community has become a nationally-recognized base of power for the equality movement, and that other politicians like Mayor Richard M. Daley, Governor Pat Quinn, and at least 3 of Meeks' potential opponents for the Mayoral race, (Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart, Former White House Chief of Staff and U.S. Congressman Rahm Emmanuel, and Former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Mosely Braun) already have significant GLBTQ street cred, the reality becomes even clearer. Meeks had to know that there was no way for him to be competitive if he didn't at least travel to Boystown to try to mend fences.
The problem here, clearly illustrated in the comments that came after the meeting as published by Gay Chicago and other sources, is that he still didn't get it. What he should have done is come out of the meeting and make serious apologies for his past statements from the pulpit against gays and lesbians. He should have denounced any and all ties to the Illinois Family Institute, the group which put anti-gay literature in the hands of Meeks' parishioners with his blessing. He should have made an immediate reversal from past statements against GLBTQ equality, and said he was wrong when preaching to his flock that the GLBTQ lifestyle is a path to Hell.
He didn't do that. Nor did he seem to convince the folks I've talked to that he did anything but give lip service to "looking at the issue" and plead that he is "misunderstood" for his past comments.
Sorry Reverend, that isn't good enough.
Too little to late. You may want to occupy the highest office in the city, but you have already set your path. I would predict that you'll find a solid pink wall standing between you and the most powerful office in Chicago. Furthermore, there are more within your own communities of influence who know in their souls that what you preach is akin to hate speech, and you can't run away from the dozens of times over the years that you have stood with your back to the GLBTQ community as a Senator in Springfield, refusing to change your ways or your votes.
For political aspirants and officials who think they can get past the GLBTQ power block and still survive to be Mayor...think again. It has loud voices, it is engaged, and it will not back down. Governor Pat Quinn seems to have gotten the message that he needs and understands it, having announced he's going to run with a solidly pro-equality agenda, by supporting civil unions for same-sex couples. If any of the Mayoral hopefuls haven't, hear it now. Chicago is an equality city, and Illinois will be an equality state. If you can't sign on the dotted line to support that, and then back it up with action, you don't have a snowball's chance in that Hell that you have proclaimed is the end game for GLBTQ voters.