CHICAGO, Ill. – The Equality Illinois 25th Anniversary Gala this Saturday will celebrate a quarter century of progress for LGBT Illinoisans and the organization's enduring commitment to securing equal treatment for all.


House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is the special guest for the jubilee celebration of the state's oldest and largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans. Also being honored is the Mariano's grocery chain.

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Annually the largest LGBT formal event in the Midwest, the Equality Illinois Gala will feature top names in politics, business and culture. Some of the world's most recognizable corporate and brand names are among the sponsors of the gala.


"When members of Equality Illinois–then named the Illinois Federation for Human Rights–first started meeting 25 years ago, we could only begin to dream about living in a state that would treat us fairly and equally," said Art Johnston, a co-founder of Equality Illinois.


"No one would have thought that today we would be celebrating marriage equality, strong hate crimes protections, anti-bullying laws, anti-discrimination laws and a conversion therapy ban, and that we built an enduring organization that speaks for LGBTQ Illinoisans and educates the public about these rights," Johnston said.


Anticipating the new initiatives that will arise over the next quarter century, Equality Illinois recently completed a retooling and unveiled a fresh design for its logo.


"In the wake of high-profile successes, we have updated our organization to build an Equality Illinois that is ready for the next phase of the movement. We've expanded our spending, grown our initiatives and opened a Central Illinois office to better meet our legislative, defensive, and educational priorities," said Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov. "So we're also celebrating our readiness to confront the challenges that lie ahead."


Now Equality Illinois is over 50,000 members strong. The 2016 Jubilee Gala will fill two ballrooms in the Hilton Chicago with more than 1,300 people celebrating the quarter century of advocacy and looking ahead to the work that remains. The gala will feature:

 

• Gala Chair J.B. Pritzker. Mr. Pritzker is a Chicago entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who has long supported the fight for LGBT rights. Read more about Mr. Pritzker.

• Equality Illinois Freedom Award Winner House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is being recognized for her visionary advocacy for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Read more about Leader Pelosi.

• Equality Illinois Business Leadership Award Winner Mariano's grocery chain. Robert A. Mariano, Chairman, President and CEO of Mariano’s parent company Roundy’s, will accept the recognition given because of the company's outreach to the LGBT market and embrace of LGBT employees. Read more about Mariano's.

 

In addition to Leader Pelosi, more than 70 public officials and candidates, civic leaders and members of the diplomatic corps are planning to attend, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, former Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Robin Kelly, Tammy Duckworth, Jan Schakowsky and Bob Dold, state Comptoller Leslie Munger, state Treasurer Mike Frerichs, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County State's Atty. Anita Alvarez, Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City Treasurer Kurt Summers, City Clerk Susana Mendoza and many state legislators and Chicago aldermen.

 

Robust business support continues to back the gala and the ongoing work of Equality Illinois. The presenting sponsor of the 25th Anniversary Gala is Breakthru Beverage Illinois.

 

• Jubilee Sponsors supporting Equality Illinois throughout our 25th anniversary year are BMO Harris Bank, Coca-Cola, MillerCoors and United Airlines. United is also the exclusive airline for Equality Illinois.

• Gold sponsors are GCM Grosvenor, McDermott, Will & Emery, Omnibus Advertising and Marketing, Sidetrack and the Tawani Foundation.

• Silver sponsors are CNA, Exelon, the Hilton Chicago, Hyatt Hotels, J&L Catering, Kehoe Designs, Kirkland & Ellis, Leo Burnett, Schiff Hardin, Seyfarth Shaw, Sidley Austin, and Winston & Strawn.

• Bronze sponsors are Baker & McKenzie, Celebrity Cruises, Chapman and Cutler, DLA Piper, FranczekRadelet, Hinshaw & Culbertson, Mariano's, McGuire Woods, Mystic Images Photography, Neal Gerber Eisenberg, Supergurl Images and Takeda.

• Media sponsors are Best Gay Chicago, Go Pride Chicago, Chicago Style Weddings, Grab magazine, theLstop.org, and Windy City Media Group.

 

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