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Equality Illinois announces statewide community advisory group

Dec. 6, 2016 - , Equality Illinois on Monday announced the formation of its Community Advisory Group consisting of a diverse representation from 28 LGBTQ individuals and allies from across the state who will advise Equality Illinois in the policy development and agenda building necessary to secure and advance LGBTQ equality, social justice, and intersectional action in Illinois.

"We are thrilled to begin working with our inaugural Community Advisory Group," said Mike Ziri, Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois, the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization.

"With members from all corners of Illinois–Carbondale to Chicago, Rock Island to Charleston–and from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, we look forward to the Community Advisory Group informing, advising, and challenging us around opportunities for and obstacles to lived equality and inclusion in every part of Illinois," Ziri said. "The timing is perfect as we are currently in the process of building our policy agenda for 2017 and beyond."

The idea for the Equality Illinois Community Advisory Group grew out of the statewide listening tour conducted over the summer by Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson, during which he visited 12 communities and listened to stories shared by more than 200 LGBTQ people and allies.

"I heard troubling tales about a lack of access to affirming healthcare, the treatment of LGBTQ people in our criminal justice system, and the need for an inclusive educational system," Johnson said. "The Community Advisory Group will contribute to our understanding of these and many more issues that LGBTQ Illinoisans experience every day. And, at a time when many LGBTQ individuals are feeling isolated, anxious, and frustrated about policymaking, we are dedicated to ensuring our policy agenda is developed through the consistent and ongoing engagement of many voices, perspectives, and lived experiences."

Advisory Group members include a high school senior in Springfield; a recent immigrant from Nairobi, Kenya; college teachers from Herrin, Champaign, Jacksonville, and Chicago; local LGBTQ organization leaders in Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Peoria, Carbondale, and Chicago; a college student in Charleston; a faith leader in Peoria; government and business people; the parent of a transgender daughter in Palatine; and community activists from many cities.

Read about each member of the Community Advisory Group at www.equalityillinois.org/ei-advisory-group/ei-advisory-group-bios.

Earlier this fall Equality Illinois called on interested stakeholders to apply for positions on the panel. Group members serve for about a year, but they may re-apply for a second year of membership.

From a press release

Pulse owner Barbara Poma won't sell to city
Dec. 6, 2016 - , Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma on Monday backed out of a deal to sell the property to the city of Orlando.

Poma opened the club in 2004 in memory of her brother John, who died from AIDS complications in 1991.

"This decision truly came just from my heart and my passion for Pulse, and everything it's meant to me and my family for the last 12 years since its inception," Poma told reporters, her husband by her side. "So I think the struggle was, you know, letting it go, and it's just something I could not come to grips with."

On June 12, a lone gunman opened fire in the gay nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding dozens more.

Mayor Buddy Dyer announced last month that the city had agreed to buy the property for $2.25 million, with plans to eventually build a permanent memorial on the site. Some members of the City Council had balked at the price tag, which was roughly $600,000 higher than an internal appraisal the city had conducted.

Gus Kenworthy Plays 'Sassy, Bitchy Version' Of Himself On 'Real O'Neals'
Dec. 3, 2016 - , Out athletes Gus Kenworthy and Robbie Rogers will guest star in an upcoming episode of the ABC sitcom The Real O'Neals.

Now in its second season, The Real O'Neals revolves around a picture-perfect family that is turned upside down when 16-year-old Kenny O'Neal (played by Noah Galvin) comes out gay. The show also stars Martha Plimpton as Eileen, Jay R. Ferguson as Pat, Matt Shively as Jimmy, Bebe Wood as Shannon and Mary Hollis Inboden as Jodi. It is loosely based on sex advice columnist Dan Savage's life as a teenager.

In an interview with Outsports, Kenworthy talked about taking the leap into acting.

"I like taking on different characters," Kenworthy said. "I like being someone else for a moment. Maybe that is like a metaphor for the fact that I was in the closet for all those years, like I was playing someone else."

The 25-year-old Olympian joked that he'll play a "sassy, bitchy version" of himself on Tuesday's episode of The Real O'Neals. Rogers is also expected to play himself.

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