Chicago’s first out gay alderman to retire

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Chicago Ald. Tom Tunney. Photo from Facebook

UPDATED

Chicago Ald. Tom Tunney, the first out gay alderman on the city council, announced Tuesday, Aug. 30, that he was retiring at the end of his term.

Tunney was appointed to the 44th Ward seat in 2022 by former mayor Richard M. Daley. His ward included Northalsted, formerly Boystown, the traditional LGBTQ neighborhood of the city. Since then, he’s been joined by four other out LGBTQ council members and has chaired the council’s LGBTQ caucus. His term ends in May 2023.

Tunney didn’t give a reason for his retirement in the announcement, but he did say he would continue to support the ward and city. Along with the council seat, he has also owned the Ann Sather restaurant in Lakeview for 41 years.

“We thank Ald. Tom Tunney for his long record of service to Chicago and especially to the LGBTQ+ community,” Equality Illinois, based in Chicago, said in a statement. “As the first out gay person to serve in the Chicago City Council, Tunney has been a vanguard for other out LGBTQ+ elected officials. His legacy runs deep, from serving the community as a business leader during the depths of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s to his aldermanic leadership for HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ support services and funding and key advocacy for the Center on Halsted, the LGBTQ+ older adult housing Town Hall Apartments, and the AIDS Garden Chicago.”

Just a couple of hours after the retirement, Tunney’s chief of staff Bennet Lawson launched his campaign for the seat. Lawson, who has already been endorsed by Tunney, is also gay.

“I’ve been fortunate to work alongside Alderman Tunney for many years to make Lakeview a vibrant place for our residents, and I’m honored that he is putting his trust in me to continue a steady legacy of service to our community,” Lawson said in his announcement.

The area has changed since he took office with Northalsted no longer the only “gay hood” in the city. The LGBTQ community has since dispersed to less expensive areas with growing communities in nearby Andersonville, Edgewater and Rogers Park.

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