The real dog days of summer may soon be over, but that didn’t stop LGBT supporters from bringing out their canines for Equality Illinois Dog Days of Summer: Pets for Equality, a fundraising event to raise money for the Equality Illinois Education Project, Saturday. Pups and their owners gathered at Sofo Tap bar in Andersonville to take pictures and hang out with their “better halves.”
Michael Nordman, director of development for Equality Illinois, came up with the idea of combining dogs with fundraising after watching people on the street walk their dogs. A dog lover himself, he contacted Sofo Tap, which already held their own Doggie Days event every Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer.
“People treat their pets like kids,” Nordman explained. “I really want a dog and I would love to date someone with a dog, and I knew Sofo Tap would be willing to partner with us for this event.”
Around 60 people participated in the event and raised close to $1,000 for the Equality Illinois Education Project.
Lisa Walsh and her partner of 12 years, Annette Whidenhoefer, came out to support the cause. After getting their civil union last October, the couple said they are ready for more acceptance of the LGBT community and marriage equality.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Walsh explained. “Any step we take forward is progress. It’s one step at a time.”
Equality Illinois raises funds for marriage equality education and other legal rights for LGBT individuals. One of its most successful efforts is sending postcards that people can sign with a personal message showing support for gay marriage, and relaying those postcards to legislators throughout the state. About 6,000 postcards have been sent to legislators since the program started early in the spring.
“It’s time,” said Norman. “We’ve had civil unions, but there’s a large LGBT population, and many people in our community have the same kind of family as everyone else.”
Rob Kraciak and his partner of 16 years, Mark Jullie, came to the event with their dogs, 6-year-old Lilly White, and 5 -year-old Ginger Red.
When asked why marriage equality is so important to them, Kraciak responded, “To some extent that’s why we didn’t get into a civil union. The marriage word is a key word.”
“Yes we do want to get married. I mean, 16 years ago it would have been like saying, ‘I’m going to jump to the moon tomorrow’ but the progress is great,” Kraciak said. “People are more accepting and loving. In time our relationship will be recognized 100 percent.”