Out Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot was targeted over the weekend with homophobic fliers that claimed she would give all jobs to gay people and make all public restrooms gender-neutral.
The fliers, distributed on the city’s south side, showed a picture of Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshelman, with their arms around each other on the front, with the words “The GAY EQUALITY ACT!!! ITS OUR TURN” and “1st openly gay woman in City Hall,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
On the back is the text “All contracts, jobs, and employment newly assigned exclusively to gay people!” The fliers also say, “With our people in City Hall, I promise to enforce the Gay Equality Act. All churches will abide by the gay marriage laws. All public restrooms will be gender free. All public schools will teach Gay History by mandate. School restrooms must be DE-SEGREGATED.” The fliers also included a headline about the introduction of the Equality Act in Congress; it would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but it would not require any of the things mentioned in the literature.
Lightfoot was asked about the fliers at a Monday press conference where she accepted the endorsement of several labor unions. “Simply put, hate has no place in Chicago,” she said, according to the Tribune.
She said it was particularly important to take that stand given the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand Friday; the accused gunman is believed to be a white supremacist. “Any attempts by anyone to propagate hate, we have to stand together as a city and denounce it unequivocally because hate can have no place in our city,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot’s opponent in the April 2 mayoral runoff, current Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, also decried the fliers and said they did not come from her campaign. “I condemn them; they have nothing to do with our campaign,” Preckwinkle, who has an LGBTQ-supportive record, told the Tribune. “It’s disgraceful. … I have no idea where it came from, and as I said, it’s despicable.”
A week ago, Lightfoot and some of her supporters wondered aloud if a comment Preckwinkle had made in a debate was a “dog whistle” to homophobic forces. When the debate moderator, Chicago journalist Carol Marin, asked the two candidates to name something they admired about the other, Preckwinkle praised Lightfoot for being open about her sexual orientation.
“If there was a dog whistle that was blown to try to motivate that base and say, ‘Oh, by the way, did you know?’ that’s the thing that would be concerning if that was, in fact, the intent,” Lightfoot said last week. Preckwinkle and her allies said there was no ill intent behind the remark.
“That’s ridiculous,” Preckwinkle told reporters. “I’ve always been a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community; I have members of that community on my staff in my campaign and my government office.”
Either Lightfoot or Preckwinkle would be the first African-American woman to be mayor of Chicago, the nation’s third largest city. It has had two black male mayors and one white woman mayor. Both are Democrats; city elections are officially nonpartisan. If Lightfoot wins, she would be the first Chicago mayor from the LGBTQ community, and it would be the largest U.S. city to have an out mayor.
The largest one so far is Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, where Annise Parker served three terms. Parker, now president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Lightfoot, issued a statement denouncing the homophobic literature. “Homophobic forces attempting to derail Lori’s historic candidacy are using the politics of hate and fear to mobilize anti-LGBTQ voters for Toni Preckwinkle,” she said. “The attack fliers are infused with mischaracterizations of the LGBTQ community and the laws that protect them – including bigoted stereotypes that are too often used against LGBTQ candidates when their opponents get desperate. Chicagoans, regardless of who they support, must speak out forcefully against efforts to mobilize voters through bigotry.”