CHICAGO, Ill. – Bernard Cherkasov, the long-serving chief executive officer of Equality Illinois, will be leaving the organization later this year after helping the state’s leading advocacy voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Illinoisans prepare for a post-marriage equality world.
Cherkasov, who joined Equality Illinois in 2009, was at the forefront of the campaigns for passage of civil unions and marriage equality in Illinois, as well as legislation that enhances hate crime protections and protects LGBT youth through strengthened anti-bullying policies and a conversion therapy ban.
As Equality Illinois celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, Cherkasov will leave behind an organization retooled for the new initiatives that will arise over the next quarter century, including the opening of a Central Illinois office and a healthy and stable financial position, which will keep Equality Illinois strongly advocating for social justice.
"With Equality Illinois retooled and ready to tackle new challenges, this is the time for me to step aside to pursue other life goals,” Cherkasov said.
“I will be forever grateful to all my colleagues, to board members and volunteers with whom I worked, and to our allies in the LGBT and other social justice movements, labor and business, who contributed to our success," Cherkasov continued. "The needs of our society are great, especially for the most vulnerable and underserved, and I am looking forward to continuing to pursue those challenges in a new capacity. But no matter where I go, I'll always be part of the EI family."
The Equality Illinois Board will lead the search for Cherkasov’s successor.
“Bernard has worked tirelessly over the last 7 years on behalf of our community as CEO of Equality Illinois and in that time has secured many victories including marriage equality,” said Grant Gochnauer, chair of Equality Illinois. “Through his hard work, leadership, and community service he is leaving Equality Illinois a better organization than when he found it. Most importantly, he’s created an organization with a strong foundation that will enable it to continue its leadership on important topics for our community in the many years ahead. It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye and as a member of the LGBT community, we thank you.”
Anthony D’Amato, chair of the board of Equality Illinois Institute, the organization’s educational arm, said, "Bernard has accomplished so much at Equality Illinois. From an operational perspective, he has brought financial stability, developed a highly professional staff and expanded our presence throughout the state. Legislatively, he has successfully contributed to many wins, most importantly the passage of marriage equality. He has been a dedicated and tireless advocate for the LGBT community. We thank him, wish him well and expect continued great things from him."
Nicole Bashor, chair of the Equality Illinois PAC, the political affiliate of Equality Illinois, said, "On behalf of the PAC board, I'd like to thank Bernard for his 7+ years of service to the organization. Bernard has represented the organization with class and professionalism in the public ways that most of you see, but he also has spent countless hours doing the hard work that no one sees. The organization has had an incredibly successful 7 years and I know this is in large part thanks to Bernard's efforts."
Cherkasov will remain at the helm of Equality Illinois as the search for his successor begins, the three board chairs said.