The Other Gay Contenders



- Democrat
- Running for reelection as state representative for Illinois's 14th district

Kelly Cassidy has spent her career fighting for social justice causes, but she’s just started doing so as a member of the Illinois state legislature, and she intends to continue.

Cassidy, 42, of Chicago, was appointed to the state House’s 14th district seat in April to fill a vacancy left by Harry Osterman’s election to the Chicago City Council, and she plans to run for reelection next year. The district includes the north side neighborhoods of Andersonville, Edgewater, and Rogers Park, and after redistricting will get a slice of suburban Evanston. The area has a diverse population, including many LGBT residents, and the overwhelming majority of its voters are affiliated with Cassidy’s party — the Democrats.

Cassidy began her career as legislative director for the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women in the early 1990s, then worked for state senator John Cullerton, and spent the past 14 years on staff at the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, first as deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, then as director of programs and development. “It gave me the exposure and the desire to really make change from the legislative side,” she says of her experience.

Reform of the criminal justice system will be one of Cassidy’s priorities in the legislature. “Having spent the last 14 years in the criminal justice system, I had a lot of opportunity to look at the things that are working and the things that aren’t,” she says. For some offenders, she says, treatment and intervention can be effective alternatives to conventional punishments, and these reforms will help make citizens safer in the long run.

Her priorities also include working for full equality for LGBT people, reproductive and other rights for women, and social justice in general, she adds.

Cassidy, who is in a relationship with Kelley Quinn and is the mother of three sons, is one of three openly gay or lesbian members of the legislature. The others are fellow House members Greg Harris and Deb Mell, both also from Chicago. —Trudy Ring

Tags: Election