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Lori Lightfoot, the Openly Lesbian Mayor of Chicago – a Sign of the Times
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of April 11, 2019) Democrat Lori Lightfoot (56) was elected mayor of Chicago on April 2, 2019, with 74 percent of the votes. She is thus the first black and openly lesbian American woman at the head of a US-American metropolis. Chicago is much larger than the 36 other LGBT-led communities, such as South Bend (mayor Pete Buttigieg) or Madison, Wisconsin (mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway). In Chicago, a democratic stronghold, Lightfoot defeated another black and female democratic candidate, 72-year-old Toni Preckwinkle. In Europe, the media have focused primarily on the fact that Lori Lightfoot is a lesbian; in the United States, however, observers have focused on her skin color. In any case, the real innovation lies in the coincidence of these two facts.
Chicago, the first major American city with an LGBT mayor
The new mayor, a lawyer and former state attorney, previously chaired the Chicago Police Supervisory Board and specialized in police violence. In a city marked by violence, murder (550 murders in 2018), inequality, injustice, racism, corruption and police misconduct, her experience has worked in her favor. Previously there has only been one black person (a man) and only one woman (white) heading the city of Chicago. Chicago has 2.7 million downtown residents and 9.5 million residents in total, making it the third largest city in the United States. Never before in an American city of this size has a black mayor been elected.
Immediately after her election, Lori Lightfoot thanked her wife Amy Eshleman with a kiss, right next to her adopted daughter and in front of the raging followers. Then she immediately reached out to her opponent Toni Preckwinkle, offering to work together for a city in which people are not discriminated against according to their skin color or any other criteria.
As the married mother of a 10-year-old daughter, Lori Lightfoot follows four white mayors from the same family clan, including her direct predecessor Bill Daley (71). Racism was not decisive in the campaign because both current candidates, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle, are black. Preckwinkle was the favorite, but her age and reputation for inactivity played against her.
Lori Lightfoot, on the other hand, suffered homophobic slander and was put under pressure especially by the black congregation, mainly by the Christian evangelicals in the south of the city.
Chicago in literature
Chicago-born lesbian writer Lorraine Hansberry tells of a disparagement of the lowest kind in Chicago in her work A Raisin in the Sun:Iin this story based on real events, a black family wants to move into a rather upper-middle-class white district of Chicago and is then discriminated against.
Nelson Algren’s masterpiece The Man with the Golden Armis is also a highly recommended read. Algren describes Chicago with its underprivileged neighborhoods better than anyone else. It is interesting that Algren himself is white and was one of Simone de Beauvoir’s lover.
LGBT as an advantage?
Despite the homophobic campaign against Lori Lightfoot, her homosexuality had little impact on the election outcome. Although homophobia is still widespread in the United States, the acceptance of gays and lesbians in politics has progressed enormously in recent years, and the fact that Lightfoot in Chicago and Buttigieg in South Bend are homosexuals may seems not to have played a major role for much of the electorate.
[LGBT candidates] may be more likely to empathize with others who have experienced discrimination or obstacles. (Shannon Minter)
The election of democratic LGBT persons already seems to have a tangible and positive impact on the community: Even heterosexual and republican politicians do not hesitate today to express themselves in LGBT forums or at events in order to convince the LGBT voters of themselves.
The United States are much more gay-friendly today
According to a PRRI survey, the American population today supports gay marriage (62%), non-discrimination against LGBT persons on religious grounds (57%) and the adoption of laws and regulations to protect LGBT persons from discrimination (69%). Despite these convincing majorities, homophobia has not yet died out completely. Let us take a closer look at these figures, especially as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
62% of Americans support gay marriage
While almost a third of the American population (30%) is still against same-sex marriage, acceptance of gay marriage has become a large majority (62% on national average), even in very conservative regions such as the South (56%) and the Midwest (60%). This means that the proportion between acceptance and rejection has reversed in about a decade.
The strongest proponents are among the 18-29 year-olds (79% or even 81% for women in this age group) and democrats (77%), which may not be particularly surprising. Opponents of gay marriage are mainly represented in the age group of 65-year-olds and over (43%) and Republicans (50%). Also, 82% of Americans who do not belong to any religion (i.e. atheists and agnostics) are in favor of gay marriage, compared to 31% of Protestants.
Acceptance of homosexuality and rejection of discrimination
In all 50 states, the majority of respondents support laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT persons. At 70% in 2017 and 69% in 2018, the figures are very stable. Anti-discrimination measures are also strongly supported in the southern states such as South Carolina (58%) or Arkansas (56%), with an average of 65% in the south.
Here, too, the dividing elements are age, religious belief and political opinion. The 18-to-29-year-olds are much more in favor of anti-discrimination legislation (76%) than the over 65-year-olds (65%). Jehovah’s Witnesses (53%) and white Protestants (54%) show the lowest level of acceptance, but are still above 50%, and Mormons even show 70%, which is somewhat surprising. While support for anti-discrimination legislation among Republicans has declined somewhat (from 61% in 2015 to 56% in 2018), Democrats lead with 79%.
Can traders or business turn to religious beliefs when refusing to serve LGBT customers? The national average is more opposed to religious pretexts, even though the figure has fallen slightly to 57% compared to 60% in 2017 and 59% in 2015. In contrast to the acceptance of gay marriage and LGBT laws, the rejection of religious pretexts exceeds 50% only in 40 states.