Chicago's debate over gay business contracts resurfaces

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Chicago's debate over gay business contracts resurfaces

Postby chidiver » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am

Chicago’s first openly gay alderman on Tuesday reopened the volatile debate about whether City Hall should establish contract set-asides for businesses owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered residents.

Six years after raising the issue only to drop it like a hot potato, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) brought it up again during a Budget Committee hearing called to extend until 2015 a construction set-aside ordinance for minorities and women.

Prior to the unanimous vote for the extension, Tunney asked Corporation Counsel Mara Georges whether any other municipality has a “category” that defines “LGBT as a qualified minority.”

Georges said she knows of no such category anywhere in the United States. But, she didn’t slam the door.

“We are certainly happy to talk to you about it and whether that’s something we should attempt to pursue,” Georges said.

“I’m not certain that, even if we would attempt to pursue it, that we can support it. But, it’s certainly something we can look at.”

Afterwards, Tunney acknowledged that there is “no consensus” within the LGBT community about whether to pursue a special category similar to the 24 percent and 4 percent construction set-asides earmarked for minorities and women.

“We know we’ve been disadvantaged. But, there are programs for women already. And the perception is this would only enhance gay white males. That’s why there’s not consensus within our community,” he said.

But, Tunney said, “All I’m asking is just to explore this as we move forward with making it an even better ordinance. …We’re looking to do more research within the community about quantifiable discrimination in terms of access to credit and financial issues ... to see whether or not, at a future date, categories within the LGBT community might be eligible.”

Tunney first raised the idea of gay set-asides in July, 2003. Mayor Daley, who appointed Tunney and has strong support within the gay community, said he was open to the idea provided gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered Chicagoans can prove they were frozen out of city contracts because of past discrimination.

Today, Tunney was hardpressed to explain how someone would prove they’re gay to qualify for a city set-aside — especially after the seemingly endless string of stories about minority business fraud.

“Qualified domestic partners. That could be one factor,” the alderman said.

He added, “That’s why there’s nothing passed yet in any municipality. We still need to work on the definition.” ... 9.article#
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