Chicago Sun-Times

Gay Rights Equal Civil Rights: Illinois Needs To Say So

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July 25, 2009

BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist

Thursday was a day of headlines. Mark Buerle's perfect pitching. The stock market over 9,000.

Military helicopters swooping into Lincoln Park as Barack Obama came back home.

But for Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman, none of that could compete with the headline being written in his own life story.

Sun-Times' columnist Mike Sneed reported the news in a small item Friday morning: "Congratulations to Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman and his partner, Daren DeJong, on the birth Thursday of their first child, Alden DeJong Huberman. The dads are delighted."

I noticed there was no quote from Huberman.

I wasn't surprised.

Huberman is the most private of public officials. Cautious, disciplined, sometimes maddeningly on message, he is a professional's professional.

Those traits explain his rapid rise through the ranks of the Chicago Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management, the mayor's office, the CTA and now the Chicago Public Schools.

Along the way, Huberman neither hid nor emphasized his sexual orientation. It wasn't part of his public discussion.

It was only in February 2009 that he offered Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman some insight into what it was to grow up gay, explaining he was a 15-year-old student at Lyons Township High School when he told his parents. "It's always difficult for kids," he said. "It was difficult for my parents at first. But they've become very accepting and very supportive."

The timing of that interview coincided with his appointment by Mayor Daley as the new head of Chicago Public Schools. He knew, as Spielman pointed out, that some "parents . . . might be uncomfortable with a gay CEO running the public schools."

He addressed that concern by saying, "If I didn't grow up being part of a group that was viewed differently, I may not have that sensitivity. It makes me in tune to individuals, groups and others who are not fitting in and may need extra support."

The hardest thing for most of us to do is talk about things closest to our hearts.

When I saw Sneed's item, my mind dialed back 23 years to when I debated how much to publicly talk about a new baby in my own life.

It was 1986, a time when anchorwomen having babies was viewed as more of a story than it is today. A day or two after a smiling social worker placed a 6-pound infant boy in my arms, a print reporter called to ask if I could confirm I was a new, adoptive mom.

It certainly wasn't a secret. My friends and family all knew. My whole newsroom knew. But, public person that I was, I shrank from talking in any detail about something so deeply personal even though it was the source of huge celebration.

My small debate back then over balancing the public and the private in no way compares to what a gay couple such as Ron Huberman and his partner deal with, even today.

While some of us see the Huberman story as one that further advances a view of the normalcy of gay families, state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) reminded me Friday that it also "further advances the outrage of opponents. . . . For people who believe in equality, it's quietly reassuring . . . but not necessarily for the opposition."

Harris, who is gay, continues to spearhead efforts in the Illinois General Assembly to pass not only a civil union bill but one that legalizes gay marriage in this state. It hasn't been easy, but it's made more difficult now by an economic crisis that trumps virtually everything else.

As a result, Illinois' gay and lesbian citizens still do not possess the same rights as the rest of us.

But there is always hope. And today, that hope is wrapped in a blanket and watched over by two soon-to-be-sleep-deprived fathers.

Blessings to you, young Alden DeJong Huberman and to those who love you.

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2 Comments

Thanks for the story. As a young gay person, it's great to see awareness brought to the issue of equality in our state.

I loved this story and thank you Carol for writing. So much of the future depends on people like yourself putting issues like this out there for all to see. It is important that people (logical, fair minded people) see that Gay Marriage as well as Gay Adoption is just as normal as anything else. Regardless of the bigots out there we know exist, we all know that just like civil rights this issue and the controversies that surround it will one day be a thing of the past.

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This page contains a single entry by Carol Marin published on July 25, 2009 6:58 AM.

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