Fete Lifestyle Magazine September 2017 Family Issue - Page 27

he Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization. Through their work, HRC has made strives over the years to ensure LGBTQ people obtain basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community. This comes through various work from lobbying for fair-minded legislation, programs and projects to enhance the living experiences of LGBTQ people and bringing awareness to community issues


However; the real secret to their success is through their volunteers who lead local community initiatives and lay the foundation for the organization. One such group, in the city of Chicago, has demonstrated how local initiatives help to power change on a national scale.

In 1924 Henry Gerber created the Society for Human Rights to bring gay Chicagoans together and educate legal authorities and legislators. Shortly thereafter the organization was shut down by police. However; that has

not stopped equality champions from continuing the fight.

In recent times, Chicago is seen as a liberal city with an inclusive legal system. That alone still has not hindered the need for LGBTQ equality support needed through the community and their allies. Local volunteers spend their free time in a variety of ways furthering HRC’s visions. They put on local events focused on fundraising or community awareness on LGBTQ issues. These include family events for children, to organizing corporate events, to recognize and enforce LGBTQ inclusive policies in the workplace with Chicago-based companies. In addition, the local groups also help with political phone banks for local elections, driving HRC’s national membership programs at various entry points and organize and participate in various progressive rallies throughout the city.

In today’s political atmosphere, this work is more important than ever. Many appointed officials in the Executive Administration have long histories of anti-LGBTQ views and policies. Additional, controversial removals of some Executive protections such as the proposed transgender military ban pose even larger inequality risks. Regardless of state laws being more amicable in Illinois, the volunteers strive to make changes nationally for LGBTQ people across the country. Although Illinois has workplace discrimination laws in place for LGBTQ employees, the majority of states still do not have this in place and therefore pose the risk of being fired for revealing they are LGBTQ. And without Federal protection, even state protections could be revoked. That’s what drives the volunteers who are on the ground in Chicago. Mobilizing LGBTQ communities — with particular focus on those who have been actively silenced and neglected — in the fight to affirm and protect basic human rights, safety and ensure humanity is the goal of the organization.

“As volunteers, we give up our free time for a cause that we feel deeply about. My motivation came from my passion for politics, advocacy and the desire to give back to my community. The passion and drive of fellow volunteers is infectious and helps us focus on all that is needed to be done to protect our gains and continue to push for full equality,” said Robert Newhart, a longtime HRC volunteer in Chicago.

The Chicago volunteers have been focused most recently on their annual signature event, the Chicago Gala and Auction. This annual event celebrates the great strides made for LGBTQ equality across the nation, honoring local leadership excellence, and strengthening convictions on helping those who still experience profound injustice. The HRC Chicago Gala is one of the largest annual LGBTQ fundraising events in the Midwest and generates important funds for HRC’s national work.

The night will begin with a reception and silent auction then to the main dinner event. The event has an array of speakers each year with past appearances from Governor Pat Quinn, Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges, and Michael Sam, former player with the St. Louis Rams.

This year’s event is being held on Saturday, November 18 at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park and aims to be bigger than ever in spreading the message of equality through the community.

For more information on the local volunteer efforts and the annual Gala, please visit www.hrcchicago.org.