Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why Rev. Meeks Is No Harold Washington on Gay Rights

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    NEWSLETTERS

    When Mayor Daley was asked how his father would have reacted to seeing him march in the Gay Pride Parade, Daley responded, “Our father always told us when a group was big enough to control a ward, we should pay attention to them.”

    You can take that as a sign of the Daleys’ open-mindedness, or you can take it as proof that they always allowed political considerations to trump personal morality.

    James Meeks, state senator for the 15th District, pastor of Salem Baptist Church and candidate for mayor, is less willing to make that distinction. Like many South Side megapastors, Meeks preaches traditional sexual behavior. In 2006, his church held a Halloween “Night of Terror” -- a tour of hell featuring gays and abortionists burning for their sins.

    In an interview with Fox Chicago, Meeks told the gay community not to worry because he’ll probably be too busy to mess with their domestic partnerships and employee benefits.

    “Now, if I were sitting around bored with nothing to do, that stuff might come up,” Meeks said. “But I expect to be so busy with schools, crime and budget problems during my first term that I wouldn’t have any time.”

    Gays are big enough to control a ward -- 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney is gay. So is North Side state Rep. Greg Harris, who told Progress Illinois, “The fact that [Meeks] could roll back the clock on rights that people have had for decades because he got ‘bored’ is totally unacceptable …  I don't think because of his views he can represent the entirety of Chicago.”

    If Mayor Meeks ever found time in his busy schedule to pick on homosexuals, he’d be setting their cause back 30 years -- to the days before Harold Washington became mayor. Washington, who built a rainbow coalition before Jesse Jackson ever coined the term, was the best friend the gay community ever had in City Hall. As a state senator and a congressman, he sponsored gay rights legislation. As mayor, he established a committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues and signed the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    Washington was elected mayor twice because he could represent the entirety of Chicago. As a pastor, Meeks may never be able to condone homosexuality. As a politician, he should at least keep quiet about it. It would be a shame if Chicago’s next African-American mayor tried to undo the work of its first.