Ron Dorfman, 73, journalist; he and partner were first gay men to legally marry in Illinois

Written By BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter Posted: 03/12/2014, 06:29am
Array Ron Dorfman and his partner, Ken Ilio, are reflected in The Bean at Millennium Park. | Provided photo

Ron Dorfman and his partner were the first gay men to legally marry in Illinois.

Mr. Dorfman, a longtime journalist known to friends as simply “Dorf,” was terminally ill and wasn’t expected to live to live long enough to see the enactment of the law this summer, so officials allowed him to wed his partner, photographer Ken Ilio, in December.

Mr. Dorfman and his husband threw a wedding party at 437 Rush, an eatery just off the Magnificent Mile.

Mr. Dorfman was in the same place 46 years earlier for another turning point in his life.

Back then the place was called Riccardo’s, and it was where Mr. Dorfman met with other journalists who were upset with one-sided news coverage emerging from the tumultuous demonstrations surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention that slanted towards then-Mayor J. Daley and his police department.

The group decided to form the Chicago Journalism Review, an unfamiliar kind of publication that critiqued the media.

Mr. Dorfman quit his position at the Chicago American newspaper to become the first editor of the monthly publication.

“The coverage of all the papers really was one sided regarding what was going on at the demonstrations and the behavior of the police at the convention,” said political consultant and Dorfman pal Don Rose.

Mr. Dorfman, 73, died Monday at his condominium in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood from heart failure. Dorfman also lived with AIDS for more than a decade.

“It was one of the first media criticism publications, and the CJR stimulated another half dozen or so such publications around the country,” Rose said.

Mr. Dorfman also worked as an editor at the Field Museum and several labor publications early in his career, Rose said. He later worked as an editor for Chicago Magazine, but quit the magazine killed a story he thought should have been published, Rose said.

Mr. Dorfman was also a vocal gay rights activist who came out in the 70s at the beginning of the gay liberation movement, Rose said.

A native of Philadelphia, he graduated from the University of Chicago and had a near encyclopedic memory, Rose said.

Journalists from all over the city made pilgrimages to drink mint juleps at Mr. Dorfman’s North Side home during his annual Kentucky Derby party.

“He had a very kind, very generous very big heart,” said Ilio. “He’s been my partner for 20 years.”

He was known for being humble and soft-spoken.

“His voice was quiet,” Rose said. “I don’t think the guy ever yelled in his life. He was one of the most loved people I know. I don’t know if you could find anybody who has a bad word for him, except maybe the editor at the old Chicago American when he quit that paper.”


Twitter: @mitchdudek

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