State Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) is among scores of local elected officials considering running for Chicago's open mayoral seat. He's gained a name in part for supporting school vouchers and protesting how education is funded in Illinois. But Meeks is also known for his "vehemence in opposing abortion and gay rights," according to a 2007 profile published by the Chicago Reader. In 2006, for example, Salem Baptist Church, where Meeks is a reverend, sponsored a Halloween "Nights of Terror" tour of a hell populated by Satan, gay men, and an abortion provider.
During a recent interview with Fox News Chicago, Meeks said the city's mayor and council wouldn't normally deal with abortion issues (a statement belied by the abortion clinic protest bubble ordinance Mayor Richard Daley signed into law last fall). And he told the television station he would simply be too busy (in his first term) to deal with gay issues that relate to city operations, like "how police would treat 'hate crimes,' whether to register civil unions and what rights to grant city employees with same-sex partners." That could change if Meeks got "bored":
Now if I were sitting around bored with nothing to do, that stuff might come up. But I expect to be so busy with schools, crime and budget problems during my first term that I wouldn't have any time.
City workers, of course, are currently able to enroll their same-sex domestic partner on the city's health benefits plan. And the city also has organized an Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, the chair of which is appointed by the mayor. (Mayor Harold Washington created the organization that ultimately become the current council.)
Meeks' comment has angered members of the gay community, who see the possibility of policy reversals they've fought long and hard for. State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), an openly gay lawmaker in Springfield, said of Meeks' remarks, "The fact that he could roll back the clock on rights that people have had for decades because he got 'bored' is totally unacceptable" in an interview with Progress Illinois this morning. They even call into question Meeks' ability to lead the city as mayor. "I don't think because of his views he can represent the entirety of Chicago," Harris said. "This is the only guy of all the candidates that is backwards leaning" on gay issues. Meeks will be asked about this positions on gay issues again if he makes his candidacy official. Bet on it.