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HomeIllinois NewsHow the LGBTQ Community became Illinois' most feared political force

How the LGBTQ Community became Illinois’ most feared political force



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The late Michael Bauer (r) with Mayor Lightfoot (c) and Bauer's husband Roger Simon (l) 

CHICAGO – In Crain's Chicago Wednesday, columnist Greg Hinz writes about a funeral he attended Tuesday of one of Chicago's most powerful and influential gay rights leaders, activist Michael Bauer. 

Illinois political leaders attended the funeral to pay their respects for Bauer including, Hinz writes, Governor Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook Co Board President Toni Preckwinkle, US Senator Dick Durbin, as well as "Illinois General Assembly leaders and so many union bosses, newspaper publishers and sundry movers and shakers."

Many of those powerful politicians owed their taxpayer-funded positions of influence to Bauer, US Senator Durbin said in the eulogy he gave. 

“You just couldn’t miss him. He was on the must-call list for first-time candidates…And you could count on one thing," Durbin added with a smile. “He never had a private thought.” 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the gathered mourners, Hinz reports: “It’s no exaggeration to say I would not be doing what I’m now doing if not for him,” said Lightfoot, voice breaking, who first met Bauer more than three decades ago.  

Bauer's mourners also reminisced about him during an extended segment of Bruce DuMont's "Beyond the Beltway" Sunday evening. Bauer was a frequent panelist on the longtime Chicago-based radio program that discusses politics.  

How did Bauer do it? How did he gain such powerful influence that he would have so many politicians not only attend his funeral, but speak publicly in honor of him? 

Hinz writes how Bauer grew the Chicago/Illinois LGBTQ community into the powerful political base it now is:

Slowly but surely, Bauer and others became more active—and successful. A gay judge was elected, Tom Chiola, and then gay legislators Larry McKeon and Greg Harris (the latter now is Illinois House majority leader), then gay and lesbian aldermen, first Tom Tunney and Deb Mell and James Cappleman and later others. And now a mayor. Bauer wasn’t the only one involved in that effort, and indeed the LGBTQ political community can be as split as any. But he usually was at least around the fringes of these pushes, and often played a much more central role. 

According to Chicago Gay History, Bauer served on the national board of directors of Lambda Legal Defense and Education, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and the Global AIDS Alliance and on the steering committee of the Joint Action Council Political Action Committee.

Locally, not only was Bauer involved in promoting gay rights politically, he served on the board of Personal PAC (Illinois' premier abortion-promoting PAC) and as its treasurer and a member of its executive committee. 

The LGBTQ community, as a result of Bauer's efforts and others, is now unquestionably for most political insiders seen as the most feared activist force in Illinois. 


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  1. I disagree – I’m observant enough to see what Illinois Review was doing here. Bauer worked within the system to get people elected, and the more he was successful, the stronger the movement became and thus ended up as the activist bosses of the Democrat Party.
    The fact is, however, they had to be secretive to gain the power they have. They were shrewd and as they gained political power, they heavily influenced public policy.
    The question is, will conservatives recognize who is really feared in Illinois, and be humbled enough to figure out they will have to follow Bauer’s example to regain political influence in Illinois.
    Despite what Rauner and the IL GOP leadership wants to believe, social issues matter. They matter a lot. And ignoring them or discouraging social issue activists is foolish.

  2. As expected, Hinz’s analysis is incomplete. Other offices used to place LGBTQ candidates have included the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and numerous Judicial Subcircuits. This year, the Democrats have even slated a MTF transgendered person for a judgeship.
    It is a far cry from when a former Cook County Treasurer was in the closet.

  3. “The LGBTQ community, as a result of Bauer’s efforts and others, is now unquestionably for most political insiders seen as the most feared activist force in Illinois.” Certainly not the Republican party after Rauner, Durkin, Schneider and Morrison.