Our Pledge To You

News

Gay community turns up heat after Ald. Mitts’ anti-gay remarks

Pressure is mounting in the gay community against the pro-Mayor Rahm Emanuel super PAC for it to drop its support of 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts, following anti-gay remarks she made at a recent public forum.

One longtime leader in the gay community, Rick Garcia, shunned gay leaders who apologized for Mitts, calling them “collaborators” and sellouts who were beholden to Emanuel.

Meanwhile, a newly elected alderman who is gay called on the pro-Emanuel super PAC, Chicago Forward, to review its endorsement process, sending the committee’s chair a letter on Thursday.

The furor comes one day after the Chicago Sun-Times reported comments that Mitts made about marriage equality.

“It is an outrage that so-called gay organizations are mum and so-called gay leaders and elected officials are silent. And you know what? We get exactly what we deserve sometimes,” said a fuming Garcia, a gay-rights activist in Chicago for 25 years. “These gay people who are loathe to criticize her are what I call collaborators. What Ald. Mitts said is unacceptable. She should be called out for it.”

Garcia criticized gay aldermen – including Ald. Tom Tunney — who defended Mitts or remained silent on the issue.

“All of them are beholden to Rahm Emanuel,” Garcia charged. “They will sell this community out in a heartbeat for the mayor.”

Earlier this week, Tunney issued a statement accepting Mitts’ apology and forgiving and supporting his colleague.

On Thursday, Tunney responded to Garcia’s “sellout” charge with a terse text message to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“No further comment,” he wrote.

One day after apologizing for remarks she now acknowledges were insensitive and hurtful to the gay community, Mitts declared her “complete support” for same-sex marriage.

“I knew I made a mistake and I have apologized for it. I regret the statement that I made about the LGBT community. I support LGBT equality and I support marriage equality,” Mitts said.

“I recognize the statement I made was insensitive. I am deeply sorry for that. I have friends and family members who are part of the LGBT community. They should have the same rights as everyone else in society. I will continue to protect those rights as a lawmaker. I have sponsored resolutions in the City Council to help the LGBT community in athletics and banning racial profiling.”

Mitts said as soon as the videotape of her remarks was made public, she called her three openly gay colleagues on the City Council to apologize to them, adding, “They understood.”

She has not yet spoken with Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the embarrassment she may have caused the mayor, but, “I’m publicly apologizing to everyone, including him.”

As for the $43,853 in support from the pro-Emanuel super PAC used to provide direct-mail, robocalls and advertising for her re-election campaign, Mitts said, “I’m grateful to Chicago Forward. They haven’t asked me to pay them back.”

Becky Carroll, the longtime mayoral ally now serving as CEO of Chicago Forward, had no immediate comment Thursday.

On Wednesday, she, too, supported Mitts in a statement issued after the alderman’s apology.

However, the night before her apology, Mitts had made other remarks regarding gay rights at a Tuesday forum held by the AustinTalks, a news site that focuses on the city’s West Side.

AustinTalks reported that on Tuesday: “Mitts told the approximately 150-member audience gathered at La Follette Park that she has never supported gay rights in her professional and personal life, but as a lawmaker, if ‘the law supports gay rights, so will I.’ ”

Ald.-elect Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) called Mitts’ comments “hurtful” and is calling on Chicago Forward to demand more from the candidates it endorses.

“I’m asking them to incorporate an unequivocal support for marriage equality. . . .  If not, I really question if they will really support same-sex marriage,” Rosa told the Sun-Times. “She was clear in saying that same-sex couples should not receive rights.

“I think what they can do is go back to all their endorsed candidates and say, we need you to publicly state you share unequivocal support for same-sex marriage. If not, they should not support them moving forward. That will send a very clear message that the goals Emanuel has includes the LGBT community.”

Anthony Martinez, executive director of Civil Rights Agenda, said Mitts should be held accountable for her comments, which he said aimed to “cherry-pick” who should and shouldn’t receive equal rights.

“If we don’t challenge those elected officials that make statements like Ald. Mitts made, how do we know they’re going to be with us when we need their support when there’s an [attack] leveled against our community?” Martinez said Thursday. “I wouldn’t necessarily talk about what I think a different PAC or organization should do. I’m not privy to the conversations that they’ve had. But I do not believe that any PAC or organization that calls themselves pro-LGBT, or even pro-equal rights, should be supporting any candidates that wants to cherry-pick rights for certain parts of the community. I think it comes back to serving the interests of all the citizens of the city.”

On Wednesday, Martinez’s colleague, Jacob Meister, chairman of Civil Rights Agenda board, defended Mitts, saying her actions supporting gay rights spoke louder than her words.

Meister further said he couldn’t make sense of Mitts’ initial comments, calling them unclear.

“I still don’t understand her quote,” he said Thursday. “You listen to it, and it doesn’t make much sense.”

At that, Garcia scoffed.

“What, he doesn’t speak English?” Garcia said. “If she apologized sufficiently, you could accept the apology but don’t make excuses for her. It’s quite another to say, what is she really saying? Her voting record is bull—-. Her voting record is what the mayor wants. She does 97 percent what the mayor wants her to do. So if Mayor Emanuel told her to do something anti-gay, she would do it.”

On Thursday, Meister said he didn’t like Mitts’ remarks, buther record is contrary to the remarks that she made.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “I’m glad that Emma apologized. The future I envision for Chicago makes sure that everybody feels like a part of the city.”