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Time for marriage equality in Illinois

President Barack Obam |  Jim Cole~AP

President Barack Obama | Jim Cole~AP

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Updated: December 14, 2012 6:08AM

Last week’s election continued America’s great history of expanding opportunity and equality. Today, we must take the next step on that journey by affording the opportunity to marry to all Americans — and we can continue that march by quickly enacting marriage equality here in Illinois.

Throughout my career in public service, I have seen our city and society make progressive strides towards providing greater respect and rights to the GLBT community.

As mayor, I lobbied for civil unions in Illinois. In Congress and within the Obama administration I pushed for the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and helped expand health care benefits for same-sex couples.

While we have come to a greater appreciation for the contributions of the GLBT community, gays and lesbians are still denied one essential freedom: the right to make a lifelong commitment to the person they love.

Gays and lesbians are our teachers, our doctors, our police officers, family members, friends and neighbors. Honoring their contributions as full members of our society means providing members of the GLBT community with the same rights and freedoms as every other citizen.

Chicago is a city of different neighborhoods and nationalities, or different religions, races and sexual orientations.

We are strongest when we are one people, united under the same set of laws, with the same freedoms and responsibilities.

The City of Chicago and the State of Illinois have a special place in our nation’s history as leader in our nation’s struggle to equality to all. Marriage equality is the next step in our nation’s march forward. Illinois must lead the way.

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago

GOP obstructionists wasted 4 years

If President Barack Obama has been anything, it is that he has been too cooperative with Republicans as they wasted the last four years obstructing his administration.

Republicans would have called this election a mandate if one of their own had won.

Ben Hudetz, Geneva

Safety first, mayor

The mayor of Chicago needs to provide financial and manpower resources to fight crime and violence in the city.

In the area between Chicago and Division, Western to well east of Damen, violent crime is increasing. In a previously safe and quite neighborhood, gentrified and full of shops and businesses, people are being robbed, shot and threatened. Many members of the local neighborhood watch indicate that they no longer feel safe. Women are afraid to walk to the store, houses and cars are broken in to repeatedly, and an influx of gang-bangers tag freely and shoot frequently at each other.

This neighborhood watch is creating a citizen’s safety program because we have been informed that police response times to burglaries and gang activity will go down due to the loss of the police station of the 13th District. In attempting to deal with these concerns, the local alderman indicates that he only has enough money in his budget to upgrade two blocks a year for lighting and other safety materials that might make the streets less conducive a target. To say that people are flabbergasted is an understatement.

Is the mayor oblivious to the changes in the core feelings here in our neighborhood? If so, why? We have been expressing our concerns over and over again. What the mayor needs to understand is that if people don’t feel safe, he won’t keep educated professionals living in this city to enjoy and support the cultural institutions. Rahm Emanuel should join our neighborhood watch. Pay attention to what people are actually feeling and saying. Those are your constituents. And they make your city vibrant.

After three friends have decided to buy outside of the city in the past few months because they don’t want to feel perpetually unsafe, I am contemplating a move, as are several people on our neighborhood watch. A move not to another part of the city, but outside of the city.

You see, I have an office in Chicago, as well as in the suburbs. I can live in either city. I have chosen Chicago since completing graduate school in here in 1991 because I like the shopping, the theater, the opera, the Bears and the lakefront bike path. But the feeling of enjoying the vibrancy of the city has become tainted as I upgrade our security system over and over, and we have our house “cased” when we walk to dinner, know friends and neighbors are broken into routinely — and learn of women and couples accosted and shot at while walking home from an evening out. What the mayor needs to realize is that safety is the first most basic need of people. It is core to our neurobiological functioning. If we don’t feel safe, we will move until we do.

Jane D. Conron, Northwest Side

A better way to pick judges

The Nov. 9 Sun-Times editorial, “Time to give the boot to bad judges” is right on the mark. On Nov. 6, Cook County voters made no distinction between the vast majority of judges who deserved to be retained and the few who should not be entrusted with deciding issues of life, liberty and the rights of their fellow citizens.

Illinois has 40-plus years of experience with the current system of selecting judges — partisan elections and nonpartisan retentions — and the flaws of this system are more apparent with each passing election.

The Illinois State Bar Association favors an appointment system in which judges would be selected with the benefit of nonpartisan commissions composed of lawyers and non-lawyers.

We believe such a system would bolster an independent, qualified judiciary. But changing the selection process requires an amendment to the Illinois Constitution. We know how difficult this is, after many years of trying.

This leaves us to pursue other measures that can improve the system we have. One of these is tighter rules outlining when a judge should disqualify himself or herself due to campaign support that creates a probability of bias. Public confidence in the justice system demands this kind of commonsense rule, and the Illinois State Bar Association will be voting next month to approve such a proposal.

Illinois is fortunate to have an excellent judiciary. We arrived at that result in spite of, not because of, the method of selection.

John E. Thies, president,

Illinois State Bar Association

Don’t forget 9/11 heroes

Does anyone remember one day long ago when for a minute, Sept. 11 wasn’t about glorifying the U.S military but about the firefighters, policemen and paramedics who responded to their last alarm?

Alexander Petkofski, Avondale

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