According to a brief news story posted on NBCChicago.com last week, Illinois State Rep. Deborah Graham is interested in running for the U.S. Congressional 7th district seat. It says Graham “is looking to make the jump from state to national politics.” On Nov. 5, I called Graham’s Oak Park office to assess the claim’s accuracy and was told no announcement had been made.

As a strong supporter of legislation extending equal rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, I am concerned about Graham’s potential interest in this congressional seat, particularly if Danny Davis does not run. Graham has not shown herself to be a strong leader for LGBT rights in Illinois. So far she has not shown support for House Bill 2234, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris. Unlike Graham, Congressman Danny Davis has established himself as a strong advocate for LGBT legislation. The Human Rights Campaign – a prominent civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality – has given Davis the highest rating on its congressional scorecard for the last three years. This outstanding rating means Davis has fully supported the Human Rights Campaign’s position on federal legislation for LGBT Americans 100 percent of the time.

Whether or not Graham decides to run for national politics, I urge her to reconsider her stance on LGBT issues. Since some local analysts argue that Graham’s lack of support for the Illinois Civil Union bill relates to religious beliefs, I would encourage her to check out a DVD from the Oak Park Public Library called For the Bible Tells Me So. This film advocates how people of strong faith, especially Christians, can understand the Bible’s teachings as loving and inclusive of gay rights. One internationally known Christian, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, compares the struggle for gay rights with the historic struggle waged in South Africa for racial equality.

He comments, “I equate homophobia to the injustice of apartheid, and that’s so contrary to the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ … I can’t for the life of me imagine that God would say, ‘I’m going to punish you because you are black, you should have been white. I will punish you because you are a woman, you should have been a man. I punish you because you are homosexual, you ought to have been heterosexual.’ I can’t, I can’t for the life of me believe that that is how God sees things.”

I would also direct Graham to the Web site, Freedomtomarry.org. It displays a list of prominent Americans who publicly support gay marriage rights. It includes Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, John Lewis, Al Sharpton and Bill Clinton.

Another Web site, nbjc.org, is for the National Black Justice Coalition. It has resources for promoting LGBT equality among black churches and their members. Dr. Sylvia Rhue, director of religious affairs for coalition, speaks to the nature of this goal: “Challenging homophobia is the unfinished business of civil rights.”

Denise Rose, a sociologist and longtime Oak Parker, is an advocate for social justice issues of equality.

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