Longtime lesbian activist Kelly Cassidy (pictured, with her children) has been appointed to fill a vacancy in the Illinois house of representatives, making her the body's third current out gay member.
Democratic ward leaders in the 14th district, covering part of Chicago's far north side, unanimously picked Cassidy for the post after a long public meeting Saturday, Windy City Times reports. She will join the legislature May 16, filling the seat being vacated by Harry Osterman, who was recently elected to the Chicago city council.
Cassidy, 42, was one of 23 candidates under consideration, including another lesbian, Paula Basta, and a transgender woman, Catherine Sikora. Basta intends to challenge Cassidy for the seat in the 2012 election.
Several activists praised Cassidy's selection, as did the house's other two openly gay members, Greg Harris and Deb Mell. "Kelly will make a great addition to the house of representatives," Harris told the Times. "I have known her for many years and have always been impressed by her commitment to LGBT rights, a woman's right to choose, and her neighborhood. She has a long track record of effective work in public policy advocacy, in government and community affairs."
Cassidy is currently director of programs and development for the Cook County state's attorney's office. Her resume also includes stints as a legislative aide and as a staffer with the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women.
"I am mindful that I will be representing one of the most diverse districts in the state, and I plan to spend as much time as possible in the coming months meeting with residents so that they can share their concerns and ideas about our community," Cassidy told the Times. "I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with all of the people of the 14th district as we work towards solutions to the fiscal challenges our state faces."