Chicago’s long-awaited LGBT Center has opened in its permanent home at long last, 20 years after the AIDS epidemic redirected the focus of philanthropic and local government funding. On its roof, it bears a garden named after the mayor who has been such a resolute champion of LGBT rights and fought for the Center:
On Tuesday, the nomadic existence ended as Mayor Daley joined Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and scores of community leaders at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted. It’s a $20 million safe haven for the gay and lesbian community.
Daley, who has emerged as a champion on gay and lesbian issues, got a hero’s welcome at the center, where the rooftop garden bears his name. He engineered $5.4 million in loans and subsidies for the Center on Halsted and pushed through domestic partner benefits for city employees. He appointed Tunney, Chicago’s first openly gay alderman, supports gay marriage, welcomed the 2006 Gay Games and has increased city support for AIDS funding.
The center has a gym, day care, counseling and cyber centers. Executive Director Robbin Burr predicted over 20,000 people would visit the center this year.
Tunney was moved to tears by what he called a “historic day.” He’s now pushing for a senior housing component with Daley’s blessing.
The rooftop garden is an especially lovely tribute, marrying as it does his passion for LGBT equality and his passion for the greening of Chicago.
I seriously cannot tell you how hard Mayor Daley can rock when he sets his mind to it. Many years ago, he set his mind to making Chicago LGBT friendly, and this Center is a culmination of a consistent and resolute support against which all politicians should be measured.
We’re very proud of the gay community in our city.—Mayor Richard Daley, July 2006