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Chicago to study city set-asides for LGBTQ-owned businesses

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CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council voted for a study on creating city contract set-asides for LGBTQ-owned businesses on Tuesday. But aldermen voiced worries that the set-asides could affect those already available for women- and minority-owned businesses.

Set-asides require a percentage of contracts for city business go to minority-owned businesses. Currently, 26 and 6 percent of city contracts already earmarked for minorities and women, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The newspaper reported that several alderman were concerned that there could be fraud (Ald. Walter Burnett refered to the movie “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”) and that it could negatively affect the set-asides that already exist.

The Sun-Times said the idea of set-asides had been proposed by Ald. Tom Tunney, the city’s first out gay alderman, 16 years ago. However, he got pushback from both in and out of the LGBTQ community and dropped the idea. Then and now, the worry was that businesses owned by white gay men would get the biggest advantage, even though they had advantages of gender and race.

This time, the idea is being pushed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the city’s first out LGBTQ mayor.

Burnett said the idea was a big topic on local black radio.

“They’re concerned this is another way for white males to get more contracts. … That was the same concern that some African-Americans had about white women being considered a minority. And after that, we started getting fraud where white women were fronting for white males. We found a lot of corruption,” Burnett said, according to the Sun-Times.

Ald. Jason Ervin, chairman of the council’s Black Caucus, was concerned about fraud and about the possibility that LGBTQ set-asides would come at the expense of African Americans.

“There have been a lot of groups that have bandwagoned on the pain and suffering that our community has faced historically throughout our existence,” Ervin said.

“When it comes down to procurement and dollars, I do have some concerns [about] …creating a situation where individuals could fraudulently assert themselves to be something that they’re not in order to get a financial gain [by claiming] something that has a lot of subjective qualifiers, but there truly is not an objective point … to affirm someone’s sexuality.”

Jonathan D. Lovitz, senior vice-president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, has said that worries about fraud are unfounded.

“In 20 years of certifying with every major Fortune 500 company that you can think of, we’ve yet to come across a situation where there was fraud of any kind, misrepresentation of any kind, because the certification process is so thorough,” Lovitz told the newspaper, noting that a “photo with my boyfriend” is not enough.

The resolution sets a Sept. 23 deadline for submitting a written report to the mayor.

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