To the editors:

In his February 10 article on mayoral candidate Richard Daley’s record, Doug Cassel states: “Not until considerable political organizing by the gay and lesbian community, and even then not until the current mayoral campaign, did Daley discover the need for the Human Rights Ordinance. . . . the gay rights ordinance languished in City Council for 15 years without a peep of support from Daley until two months ago.”

This is simply not true, as even a fairly brief reading of the gay press of the past five years will show. Daley has been on public record in support of gay and lesbian civil rights protection for at least that long. He endorsed an earlier form of the recently passed Human Rights Ordinance during the 1983 mayoral campaign, and also appointed Julie Hamos as a liaison to the gay and lesbian community during that race. In the years between the 1983 campaign and the current one, he publicly cited his support for gay rights on several occasions (political rallies and the like). And prior to the 1983 campaign, Daley met as state’s attorney with gay activists to improve both his office’s awareness of gay issues and his own standing in the gay community (Julie Hamos and Alderman Kathy Osterman, then employed in the state’s attorney’s office, were also involved in those meetings).

This doesn’t necessarily change Cassel’s assertion that Daley’s actions are motivated mainly by politics. It is undoubtedly true, as Cassel suggests, that Daley was responding to “political organizing by the gay and lesbian community”–just as that is true of Eugene Sawyer, the late Harold Washington, and just about every other politician on the map. But there is no need for Cassel to distort the record in order to make his point.

Albert Williams

N. Marine Drive

PS: I speak as a journalist who has covered gay and lesbian politics in Chicago for eight years.

Doug Cassel replies:

If Daley indeed supported the gay rights or human rights ordinance before the current campaign, his “peep” of support managed to escape notice by: (1) two senior officials in his 1983 mayoral campaign, one of whom publicly represented Daley on gay and lesbian issues and neither of whom knew of his alleged support, (2) Daley’s alderman, Patrick Huels, who voted against the gay rights ordinance in July 1986, and also against the human rights ordinance in September 1988, but who suddenly saw the light once Daley announced public support for the ordinance in December 1988, (3) the Tribune and Sun-Times, in which I could find no mention before December 1988 of this presumably newsworthy Daley position, and (4) several longtime activists in the gay and lesbian community with whom I also checked, none of whom knew of any prior Daley support.

If, as Mr. Williams asserts, Daley nonetheless supported the ordinance, I would correct my sentence from “without a peep” to “with no more than a peep.” And I would add: With friends like Daley, who needs enemies?