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Ald. Tunney Cheers DOMA Decision as 'a Watershed Day'

By Ted Cox | June 26, 2013 1:21pm
 Ald. Tom Tunney talks with Ald. James Cappleman after his stirring speech in Wednesday's City Council meeting.
Ald. Tom Tunney talks with Ald. James Cappleman after his stirring speech in Wednesday's City Council meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The city's first openly gay alderman cheered the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality Wednesday in a stirring speech before the City Council.

"Today is just a watershed day," said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). "Gays and lesbians will have the rights and responsibilities of every individual in America."

Tunney's remarks came in support of a resolution supporting the Ride for AIDS Chicago 2013 submitted by Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), a participant in the cycling fundraiser. Tunney spoke out at how the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome epidemic of the '80s was driven by "government ignorance" and that it was no longer "a gay white man's disease," but was now prevalent in the African-American and Hispanic communities as well.

Yet what really set Tunney off was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and giving married lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual couples the same rights as heterosexuals. "So we're fighting for AIDS, but we're fighting for dignity and self-respect," Tunney said. "This is what we're fighting for. This is why I'm sitting in this seat."

At the same time, he suggested it was about time for such obvious common sense as granting LGBT couples the same spousal rights over pensions and hospital visitation. "Hello? How long does this stuff take?" Tunney said. He cited how the Supreme Court voted narrowly 5-4 on the case, but how U.S. citizens under 30 widely support gay rights. "Someday, these decisions are gonna be unanimous," Tunney said. "What is the big deal?"

He also pointed to how DOMA was passed by President Bill Clinton's administration in the '90s, with the help of Rahm Emanuel, now both avid gay-rights supporters. "They were the ones who put DOMA in," Tunney said. "So let us not forget, the times have changed. The public sentiment has changed. And we have a mayor now and a president that recognizes equality for all LGBT people.

"Let's not even call them a label," he added. "We're all the same.

"There are better things I could do with my time than sit here and negotiate on behalf of the community," Tunney said. "But I have made the sacrifice to sit here and to fight, fight, fight. And I will fight AIDS. I will fight for LGBT [rights] until we are equal partners in this city."

Tunney called on the Illinois General Assembly to "get its act together" and pass marriage equality statewide.

"Gays and lesbians are part of the City of Chicago," Tunney concluded. "We are everywhere. And we are normal human beings. And we deserve equal rights and respect and dignity."

Tunney's remarks received a rousing response from the council and the audience.