Scroll To Top
World

Pioneering Gay Judge to Retire

Chiolax180
trudestress

Cook County circuit court judge Tom Chiola (pictured), the first openly gay elected official in Illinois, is retiring after 16 years on the bench, Windy City Times reports.

When he ran for the judgeship in Cook County, which includes Chicago, his campaign materials made the out nature of his candidacy clear. "The i in my name was dotted with a pink triangle that was sort of a badge of honor," he told Windy City Times. "People knew where it came from, and it stood for not backing down. It reminded people that we'd never go back."

After receiving his law degree in 1977, Chiola started his legal career as a prosecutor for the Illinois attorney general's office, then became chief administrative law judge for the general counsel of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, where he often dealt with medical malpractice cases. He was elected to the county circuit court judgeship in 1994.

Chiola is a veteran activist. He was involved in the efforts to pass gay-inclusive city, county, and state human rights laws, and he has volunteered with the Chicago offices of national groups such as Lambda Legal and the NAMES Project and with local organization Vital Bridges (formerly Open Hand), which provides meals and other services to people with HIV. As a lawyer, he help develop pro bono legal services for people with AIDS, and as a judge, he was a member of a group working within the judiciary to assure sensitivity to gay and lesbian litigants and issues. Last year he became president of a resource group for gay and lesbian judges. He has received several legal and judicial awards, and he was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1998.

He is also a longtime athlete, having participated in the Gay Games in Chicago, New York, and Vancouver, Canada, and he plans to compete in this year's games in Cologne, Germany. His other plans for retirement include stepped-up activism, which he noted was curtailed somewhat by his judicial position. "I wasn't able to be a part of certain projects," he told Windy City Times. "Whether it's lobbying or working on state legislation ... I'm looking forward to being active in the community again."

Chiola will be honored at a private retirement party Friday.

trudestress
Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.