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Katherine "Kit" Duffy, Chicago's first mayoral liaison to the LGBT community and a longtime political activist, has died at age 71.
Duffy died of complications from heart surgery, Windy City Times reported today. The paper did not say if her death occurred today or earlier.
Mayor Harold Washington appointed Duffy as his LGBT liaison in 1984. "As a heterosexual ally, Duffy was a constant force in the 1980s Chicago gay community," Windy City Times notes. "As AIDS started to take its toll, and as the community fought for a civil-rights bill, Duffy was a key link for the community to the mayor, and vice versa."
Her appointment was one of several efforts by Washington, the city's first black mayor, to make government more open and responsive to all, she recalled in a 2007 interview quoted by the Times. "It paralleled what Harold was trying to do for the entire city," she said. "It was certainly time for that change. "We were flying blind, but with a complete commitment to fairness."
In 1985 she convened a mayoral committee on gay and lesbian issues, and during her time as liaison she joined other advocates in lobbying for a gay rights ordinance. The City Council finally passed it in 1988, the year after Washington died.
Duffy was also the first executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, a funding and advocacy group formed in 1985. In 1991 she helped found the Illinois Federation for Human Rights, a predecessor to today's statewide LGBT rights organization Equality Illinois.
In 2008, Duffy was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame as a Friend of the Community, the designation for straight allies. She remained active in progressive politics until just weeks before her death, according to Windy City Times.