By Ran Aubrey Frazier
Originally published on Advocate.com March 11 2014 8:40 PM ET
Five Chicago City Council members stand to be outed as gay next month by Chicago Dispatcher, a monthly newspaper that focuses on issues relating to the taxi industry.
In an editorial titled "Five Secretly Gay Aldermen," which was published online last Thursday, Dispatcher publisher George Lutfallah wrote that the paper "learned that five of the city's 50 aldermen are closeted homosexuals." Lutfallah threatened to disclose their names in next month's newspaper, unless a list of demands was satisfied in the interim. Among those demands were that the city ban commercial ride-sharing permanently for a host of reasons, or else subject ride-share drivers to the same regulations as taxi drivers. The editorial also bemoaned the fact that many ride-share drivers are women, saying, "The last place for a woman is behind the wheel. If a woman needs a ride somewhere, she will only feel safe if the driver is a man."
At least two of the demands were outrageous, which seemed to suggest that the alderman would be outed regardless. These were a mandate that the city change the name of Willis Tower back to its original moniker, Sears Tower, and that the city ban use of the Internet so as to promote newspaper sales.
The editorial further claimed that the five aldermen in question lied to their constituents about their "gay lifestyle." As examples of their hypocrisy, Lutfallah joked, "a couple of them watch Duck Dynasty while eating carryout from Chick-fil-A."
The piece ended on an ambiguous note, with Lutfallah citing to unspecified "cultural norms" that are changing, which might be a coded reference to LGBT rights' advances. "Let's keep things the way they were and follow established regulations and cultural norms," he concluded.
Statewide LGBT rights group Equality Illinois issued a statement saying it "strongly condemns" the editorial, as it "suggests there is something shameful about being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender public official." "However this article was intended, it is no joking matter," continued CEO Bernard Cherkasov. "We call on the publication to immediately retract its extremely offensive article and apologize to the city’s LGBT community, women drivers and customers, the City Council and the public at large."
Chicago, by the way, does have three openly gay or lesbian City Council members, Tom Tunney, James Cappleman, and Deborah Mell.