Phil Reese

Moving forward in Illinois

Filed By Phil Reese | December 20, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Illinois, leadership

This piece is the first part in a series of posts about moving forward LGBTQ equality in Illinois.

After eighteen years as the public face of the top LGBTQ advocacy organization in Illinois, Equality Illinois, it was announced Friday that Rick Garcia and Equality were parting ways. Illinois is better-off for Rick's leadership as our community's top lobbyist for nearly illinois.jpgtwo decades. Thousands of Illinoisans will be eternally grateful for his leadership, and eager to see where life takes Rick in the future.

Rick's departure from Equality is sad in some ways--sad to see a familiar face and fierce fighter go--but Garcia's departure as Political Director of the state's most visible LGBT advocacy group also opens the door for change in Illinois not possible just last week. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be sharing my conversations about the future with Illinois LGBTQ leadership.

Illinois' LGBT leadership shows great diversity in geography, age, philosophy, race, ethnicity, gender identity and experience. With Illinois' LGBT activism's star player leaving the game, the time has come for many fresh faces to share the spotlight. In the wake of the passage of our civil unions bill, I'll be examining what other issues our state's LGBT community faces: from geographic and economic disparities to issues of inclusion and diversity. Let's see who is at work right now helping make Illinois a better place for the entire LGBT community [read the first installment with Anthony Martinez].

I'm also calling for your thoughts about the future of LGBT leadership in Illinois. If you'd like to share your thoughts with me, please email me at

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So 10 days after he successfully shepherds the Religious Freedom and Civil Union bill through the Illinois Statehouse, Rick Garcia, the face of and co-founder of Equality Illinois, is ousted form the organization, less than two months before their 20th anniversary fund raising gala celebrating the civil unions victory. The "fresh new faces" have no track record, and the one individual with a track record has been thrown under the bus. PR emergency on Aisle 2.

I for one will no longer support Equality Illinois, and I will encourage organizations that I am affiliated with to withdrawal their support until such time as this wrong is righted.

Cyndi Richards | December 21, 2010 3:29 AM

Disclosure: I have known Rick Garcia, to one degree or another, for most of the two decades that I have been an "out" trans-activist.He had me from the first "Hell yes we can!"

A large part of my responsibility during the almost 4 and a half years that I served as a principal board member for Illinois Gender Advocates was interacting and coordinating with Rick on matters particularly relevant to the transgender community in our state.

As the exclusive transgender "partner" to EQIL, Rick and I stood together on several occasions, demonstrating a level of solidarity between the GLB and the usually overlooked T that is arguably atypical of most formal LGBT "alliances" I am aware of.

Rick Garcia consistently refused to compromise on FULL INCLUSION of trans-folk in every bit of legislation he lobbied on behalf of, and he is certainly owed a HUGE debt of gratitude for his inherent integrity in the face of misinformed criticism from all sides of the "controversy du jour".

HRC lied about ENDA - Rick was right there calling them out for their duplicitous deeds.

For several years, Rick was a sensitive and insightful speaker at the annual candlelight vigils put on by IGA to honor the memory of people who were victims of fatal acts of unprovoked xenophobic violence.

A quick Google search for Illinois Transgender Day of Remembrance will reveal what a powerful and passionate ally Rick was to trans-folk.

The questionable decision to break up a presumably winning team (based on past accomplishments) is oddly timed and counter-intuitive at best.

The trans-community is greatly diminished by the loss of Rick Garcia, and I know I am not alone awaiting resolution to this fiasco.

Rick, we've got your back, brother.

Thanks so much for posting that, Alex!

I encourage everyone who's interested in the matter to follow Windy City Times' exclusive coverage, which will continue on an ongoing basis. The print edition is out every Wednesday, but the website is updated daily, sometimes more often depending on the news cycle, so keep watching for updates!

I saw that Rick & the board chair had a falling out years ago that has spilled over into this and that most of the board members were outraged over the firing.

And Rick came to work but got hauled out by the police? True?

Matt Foreman | December 21, 2010 4:07 PM

Rick is a superb leader with an amazing track record of success. Yes, he ruffled feathers, but politics is all about that - and delivering.

This is a shameful way to treat a leader who has sacrificed so much for all of us.