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Gay group plans to protest anti-gay benefit in burbs

Wed, 10/03/2007 - Chicago Free Press - LINK

By Matt Simonette

Staff writer

The Gay Liberation Network announced Sept. 30 that it would stage a protest against an anti-gay group meeting at a suburban Chicago hotel Oct. 5.

The group plans to protest at the Embassy Suites Lombard/Oak Brook, 707 E. Butterfield Rd. in Lombard, Oct. 5, the site of a fundraiser for anti-gay activist Peter LeBarbera’s new organization, Americans for Truth.

LeBarbera, who is based in Naperville, is the former executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. He has staunchly opposed gay marriage initiatives in the state.

In a statement, GLN’s Andy Thayer said, “While LeBarbera has the right to free speech, no private business is under any obligation to provide a venue for such speech, especially when it involves promoting hate and discrimination against any group. By being outside of the Embassy Suites Hotel Friday night we will be exercising our own free speech rights and pointing out the pro-hate nature of LeBarbera’s groups.”

The location of the banquet was not known until a Naperville activist named “Janice,” who did not want to use her last name, began calling area hotels. She said she called the Embassy Suites and was told that a block of rooms had been set aside for the banquet. She said she also visited the hotel and explained the situation to the general manager.

She said that he seemed sympathetic, but hotel officials have not followed up by returning her calls. The hotel had not responded to CFP’s calls by press time.

Janice said she was not affiliated with any particular group, but was concerned because, “I live in Naperville and this was going to happen on my turf. He’s trying to legitimize (his group) by holding a banquet. I can’t sit by and let him pretend he’s the United Way.”

Thayer said that even though LaBarbera’s group is young, GLN is not going to be complacent.

“It’s better to stop a problem before it starts. …This banquet he’s holding is an attempt to re-launch an organization,” he said.

According to GLN, the banquet was originally scheduled for the Naperville Holiday Inn, which cancelled it after they were informed about the nature of the event.

Embassy Suites is managed by Hilton Hotels, which was rated a “95” by the Human Rights Campaign on its Equality Index. Neither Hilton nor HRC returned calls for comment.


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