LGBTQ leaders challenge Calloway over homophobic Facebook posts

“My family Mr. Calloway, my dear friends and allies, are not an abomination” says 5th Ward resident Adrienne Irmer as she responds, in her words, to “aggressively homophobic posts” on Facebook attributed to William Calloway, candidate for 5th Ward Alderman. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Staff Writer

Members of the LGBTQIA community and their allies in the 5th Ward question if Will Calloway’s progressive vision includes them after public, anti-gay marriage Facebook posts from 2015 resurfaced.

On March 15, citizens of the 5th Ward, Southside Democracy for America (SDFA), and a representative from United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 gathered on the second floor of City Hall to speak out against Calloway’s homophobic posts.

On June 26, 2015, Calloway wrote: “Heard an abominable sin was passed nationwide today. If the prophecy serves me correct America should fall at any moment now. Invasions, financial collapses, horrific natural disaster … prepare accordingly.”

On the same day that Calloway wrote this post, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark civil rights case, Obergefell v. Hodges, that the 14th Amendment requires all states to grant and recognize same-sex marriage.

After being challenged by members of the activist community on social media, Calloway doubled down on his sentiments. writing June 28, 2015: “If your pastor didn’t preach against any abominations today that shouldn’t be your pastor.”

Adrienne Irmer, a resident of the 5th Ward for 15 years said, “My family, Mr. Calloway, my dear friends and allies are not an abomination. Anyone sitting in an elected office in my neighborhood needs to see the fullness of the humanity of everyone who lives there.”

SDFA along with UFCW Local 881 has endorsed Ald. Leslie Hairston in the runoff election because Calloway’s sentiments do not represent their progressive vision for the 5th ward.

Marc Loveless, SDFA chairman, said: “Will has said that his positions are based in his faith. Well, we say that as far as leadership on the South Side of Chicago, particularly in the 5th Ward, understand that the sign on the door says ‘Bigots need not apply.’”

Zach Koutsky, Legislative and Political Director for Local 881 UFCW, says the union believes that every worker deserves “dignity, equal protection and equal treatment when they are at work.” They wanted to endorse a candidate, “who is going to be good for our members. Not just some of our members, but all of our members.”

During the press conference, the speakers asked other organizations to rescind their endorsement of Calloway until he apologizes for his posts and actively engages with the LGBTQ community.

Their sense of urgency in the matter comes from the high rates of HIV/AIDs infection in Black communities on the city’s South and West Sides and the murder rate of Black transwomen.

“The South and the West Sides are ground zero for the most murders of Black transwomen in the entire city. The 5th Ward is experiencing a higher rate of HIV/AIDs infections,” Irmer explained. “We need somebody in office who is going to be sure that the 5th Ward is going to get the resources it needs so that they can be part of the ‘Get to Zero’ Campaign statewide.”

The ‘Get to Zero’ Campaign is a nationwide strategic plan to reduce HIV infections and AIDs death to zero by 2030.

“If we don’t have an ally who is willing to engage with the community that is meaningful and impactful for their lived experiences, he does not deserve to be there,” Irmer said.

The Herald reached out to Calloway for comment but received no direct response. Calloway later posted a statement on his social media pages that said:

“Four years ago, I posted statuses and made comments that were offensive to members of the LGBTQIA community. I initially posted them based on my religious beliefs, with no intention of attacking those who identify as LGBTQIA. My faith is never intended to offend, but to love. However, since that time, my thinking has evolved – thanks in large part to members of that community who have encouraged me to embrace and fight for all. Before, and even more since then, I have marched side-by-side with people of diverse race, gender, and sexual orientation to fight for justice in this city. Those statements are not reflective of the man I am today, and I deeply regret them. I hope that the LGBTQIA community can understand and know that, when I am elected, I will focus on protecting the rights of all Chicago residents regardless of race, gender, sexuality, identification, or affiliation, as I have been over the last four years. My love for all people is what drives me to fight for change in our community.”

s.smylie@hpherald.com