Claude Walker | Bicentennial-By-Buttons

Ron Sable

In 1987, Dr. Ron Sable became the first openly-gay candidate for Chicago Alderman, perhaps the first in Illinois. While he ran and lost (twice), Sable forced the Machine Alderman to break from Fast Eddie Vrdolyak on a city gay rights ordinance. An Army medic in Vietnam and Cook County physician, Sable helped found the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and IMPACT. Sable ’87 was no one-note tune. He pushed health care, tenants’ rights, parking and parks. He had troops, cash and charisma. Still, incumbent Bernie Hansen squeaked out a win. The margin was greater in '91: Hansen had been schooled and became an advocate for gay rights. Sable died in 1994, after having been inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.Hansen

Today, there are openly-gay public officials at many levels of government. First openly-gay Chicago Alderman? Tom Tunney (44), a restauranteur and activist who was named by Mayor Daley the Younger to fill out Ald. Bernie Hanson’s term in 2002, then ran and won the seat ever since. Tunney is a distant relative of boxing champ Gene Tunney and U.S. Sen. John Tunney (on whom “The Candidate” was loosely-based.)

Kelly Cassidy

In 1997, Larry McKeon became the first openly-gay member of the Illinois General Assembly. In the past decade, the Illinois House welcomed four openly-gay members: Greg Harris (2007), Deb Mell (2009), Kelly Cassidy (2011) and Sam Yingling (2013).

Gold Coast Chicago Button MuseumIn 1958, Hall-of-Famer Chuck Renslow opened Gold Coast, the nation's first leather bar. Courtesy Busy Beaver Museum.

Alive With Pride Chicago Button Museum

The 1985 Pride Parade attracted 35,000 viewers. Today, more than a million people line the streets. Courtesy Busy Beaver Museum.

Pride ParadeAIDS

Having marched in a dozen Pride Parades and watched a few more, this author would say the early ‘90s was a turning point. More floats, more outrageousness, the dawn of corporate participation, much bigger and noisier crowds, a longer route.

Neil HartiganGays and Lesbians for Daley Political Button Museum

Neil Hartigan’s 1990 campaign was the first time, I believe, an Illinois gubernatorial candidate said that on a button. It was distributed at a packed GOTV Rally at Ann Sather’s in Boystown at which Comptroller candidate Sen. Dawn Clark Netsch brought down the house. (Daley button courtesy of Busy Beaver Museum.)

Pride colors Flying the colors!

Illinois Love I Heart Button Museum

Celebrating same-sex marriage in Illinois. Courtesy Busy Beaver Museum.

- Claude Walker. Bicentennial-by-Buttons: 200 Years of Trailblazers, Rascals and Felons


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