Nearly a year after Orlando’s Pulse nightclub attack that shook the LGBTQ community, a crowd of supporters in Frankfort marched and rallied Sunday, June 11, for unity and equality.
The demonstration organized by the Southwest Suburban Activists coincided with the nationwide commemoration of LGBTQ Pride Month, which is held every year in June. It aimed to bring more diversity, compassion and empathy to the Frankfort area.
“I think it’s [an] ongoing [challenge], but I think we’re making some strides in the area,” said Emily Biegel, founder of Southwest Suburban Activists. “I would say there are more ‘out’ people living in the area than there were before, which is good.”
A number of people delivered speeches during the rally, including gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).
Biss wanted people to know the LGBTQ community has his support.
“I was at a similar event like this earlier today in the City of Chicago,” he said. “[I think we need] an event like this, a conversation like this, [a rally] like this, a march like this in every single town in the United States of America.”
In his time in office, Biss has helped pass a law in Springfield to make conversion therapy illegal.
Biss challenged people to think about what conversion therapy actually is.
“That’s not therapy—that’s abuse,” he said. “We know this, and we know this when we passed our law to ban it, which is great news. But man, let me tell you when we were trying to get the votes to pass that bill, it was hard work. It was trench warfare. It was one vote at a time—we’d gained two and lose one and then maybe lose another one. We have a tremendous amount of work left to do educating people across our state and across our country that we love everyone for who they are.”
Mat Tomkowiak—a democratic candidate running for office in 2018—said he’s looking to bring change.
“I have a feeling that since [the election of President Donald] Trump, people have woken up a little bit, and now they’re investigating who the [Democrat] is that they’re voting for,” he said. “They’re not just [simply] checking ‘D’ on the ballot, they actually want to know what the democrat stands for.”
Tomkowiak wants to become the first person identifying as LGBTQ to serve in Congress.
Tomkowiak said he is seeking election to the 3rd district seat held by Dan Lipinski and referred to his opponent’s campaign as “out of step” with the people.
“For instance, he voted against the American Healthcare Act, he wants to ban gay marriage,” he said. “These are things that are completely out of step with the district that only 40 percent of us voted for [President Donald] Trump. The district in the primary voted for Bernie [Sanders]. It is a solidly blue district that is not that conservative, not as conservative as he.”
The rally was capped off by a moment of silence for the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack and a march for unity and equality.
The speeches people volunteered to deliver were on point, Biegel said.
“Obviously, people are very passionate about equality because it is so important, and I thought that really came through in all of the speeches,” she said. “It was good, and I think it’s important for all of us to talk about what we’re for, instead of what we’re against. That was very evident in everybody who spoke, so that was good.”
An estimated 130 to 150 people participated in the equality march for unity and pride.
Olivia Dauksas, of New Lenox, was seated on the green at Briedert Green Park listening to some live performances following the march.
“I really liked the speakers,” she said. “I was really glad there was a church included just to try and break the barrier between church and the discord between church and equality.”
Dauksas said she felt encouraged seeing the way people showed support for people who identify as LGBTQ.
“I just think it was really good that people showed up,” she said. “I’m surprised how many people came. The weather is kind of hot, but it was good.”