Freedom To Marry

The gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide

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Voices of Equality: Richard M. Daley

Evan Wolfson and Mayor DaleyChicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has earned a national reputation for his innovative, community-based programs to address education, public safety, neighborhood development and other challenges facing American cities. Time magazine, in its April 25, 2005 issue, said Daley "is widely viewed as the nation's top urban executive."

A former state senator and county prosecutor, Daley was elected Mayor on April 4, 1989, to complete the term of the late Harold Washington, and was re-elected in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003 by overwhelming margins.

Frustrated with the performance of Chicago's schools, Daley assumed responsibility for the Chicago Public Schools in 1995. His new management team closed a $1.8 billion deficit; made homework mandatory; ended social promotion of underperforming students; improved school safety; greatly expanded summer school, after-school and early childhood education programs; and invested more then $4 billion in capital improvements. Recently, Daley has pushed especially hard to improve the teaching of reading, increase parental involvement in education and expand after-school and summer programs, as well as early childhood education. Student scores on standardized tests have risen consistently since 1995 and have surpassed national norms in some areas.

Under Daley's leadership, Chicago's community policing program also became a national model, with beat officers working with City agencies and residents to solve problems that foster crime. The police department added 1,500 officers, launched an aggressive anti-gang program and seized and destroyed 10,000 to 15,000 illegal weapons each year, more than any other city. Chicago's crime rate has dropped every year since 1992.

Daley's focus on quality-of-life concerns has led to greater emphasis on the delivery of basic services, from removing graffiti and deteriorating buildings to creating more green space and a citywide recycling plan. Since he became mayor, the City has planted more than 400,000 trees, created 100 school campus parks, built 68 miles of landscaped street medians and spurred the construction of rooftop gardens on major buildings, including City Hall. Daley has organized U.S. and Canadian mayors to protect the Great Lakes.

In 2004, Daley opened Millennium Park, the most ambitious public-private undertaking in Chicago's history. Constructed over railroad tracks and parking lots in downtown Chicago, the widely acclaimed showplace of architecture and the arts features a spectacular band shell designed by Frank Gehry; a popular reflecting sculpture designed by Anish Kapoor; an interactive fountain designed by Jaume Plensa; a garden designed by Kathryn Gustafson; a theater for music and dance; restaurant and ice rink.

Since Daley took office, the City has invested more than $3 billion toward more than 125,000 affordable housing units and has established aggressive plans to rebuild public housing, extend housing affordability, and end homelessness in Chicago. The City has tripled the number of available beds for the homeless and established the largest locally funded rental subsidy program in the nation. Under Mayor Daley, Chicago was the first city in the country to enact legislation to combat predatory lending. Nationally, Mayor Daley has been a strong voice for the preservation of affordable housing, and he has led efforts to obtain more resources for housing at state and federal levels.

To improve the business climate, Daley trimmed business taxes; streamlined licensing processes for small businesses; created a business assistance program to support local companies and spur neighborhood development; and offered financial incentives to attract and retain employers.

A landmark ordinance Daley introduced in 1990 guarantees 25% of all City contracts to minority-owned businesses (MBE) and 5% to women-owned businesses (WBE). The City has surpassed those percentages every year since. Daley also has increased the number and percentage of minorities in the City's workforce, created an Office of Sexual Harassment to investigate complaints and stiffened penalties for hate crimes.

By turning over some 40 City functions to private contractors and holding City employees more accountable, he has saved taxpayers more than $50 million a year and held City-levied property tax increases to slightly over 1% a year, far below the rate of inflation.

In 1996 Daley headed the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He has been named Municipal Leader of the Year by American City and County magazine; a Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine; and Politician of the Year by Library Journal. He has received the Education Excellence Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice; the Public Service Leadership Award from the National Council for Urban Economic Development; the J. Sterling Morton Award from the National Arbor Day Foundation; the Keystone Award from the American Architectural Foundation; the Martin Luther King/Robert F. Kennedy Award from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence/Education Fund To End Handgun Violence; the Kevin Lynch Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a Lifetime Achievement Award for support of the arts from Americans for the Arts and the U.S. Conference of Mayors; the Catalyst Award for Urban Park Leadership from the Urban Parks Institute; the Education Excellence Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Richard Michael Daley was born in Chicago April 24, 1942, the fourth of seven children and the eldest son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and his wife Eleanor. He graduated from De La Salle Academy, earned undergraduate and law degrees from DePaul University and began his public service career in 1969 when he was elected to the Illinois Constitutional Convention. From 1972 to 1980 he served in the Illinois Senate, where he led the fight to remove the sales tax on food and medicine, sponsored landmark mental health legislation and established rights for nursing home residents.

Daley was elected State's Attorney of Cook County in 1980 and re-elected in 1984 and 1988. He pushed successfully for tougher state narcotics laws and raised the conviction rate dramatically. He helped overhaul Illinois' antiquated rape laws to obtain more convictions and developed programs to combat drunk driving, domestic violence and child support delinquencies. Daley and his wife Maggie are the parents of three children, Nora Daley Conroy, Patrick Daley and Elizabeth Daley. A son Kevin died in 1981 at the age of three.

About marriage equality, Mayor Daley was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying:

"A lot of people are opposed to it. So be it. But again, you have to point out the strength of that community — they're doctors, they're lawyers, they're journalists, they're politicians, they're someone's son or daughter, they're someone's mother or father.

"They're parents, and I have been with them. They've adopted children. They have wonderful children. To me, we have to understand this is part and parcel of our families and our extended families.

"They love each other, just as much as anyone else. They believe that the benefits they don't have, they should have. And so I have a very open mind on it.

"People have to look at their own lives and at their own marriages. Don't blame the gay, lesbian, transgender community, please. Don't blame them for it."

Read about more Voices of Equality.

Where Can Gay Couples Get Married?







Support the Respect for Marriage Act to Repeal DOMA

Support the Respect for Marriage Act by contacting your legislative leaders and friends.(Link)

Learn More About ‘Our Families Count’

Make sure LGBT families and people are accurately counted in the 2010 census.(Link)

A Decade of Progress on LGBT Rights

A new report shows the past 10 years have been a period of dramatic gains in equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in America, including sharp increases in the number of LGBT Americans protected by family recognition legislation at the state level. (Link)

Freedom to Marry Week 2010

Learn more about the 13th annual Freedom to Marry Week, February 8-14, 2010. (Link)