Larry McKeon
Died at age 63, May 13, 2008
Categories:   Politics   Legal   Health   Civic/Community

McKeon had a long public service career, from serving as a police officer in Los Angeles, to being Mayor Daley's gay liaison in the 1990s, and the state's first openly gay and openly HIV-positive state representative, from Chicago's North Side. He died of a stroke at age 63, May 13, 2008.

McKeon served as a state representative from 1997 to 2007. In the summer of 2006, McKeon announced his retirement. His health was declining due to his struggle with HIV and cancer. Democratic ward committeemen selected the openly gay and HIV-positive Greg Harris as McKeon's replacement.

Besides being the first openly gay Illinois state legislator and one of the first representatives in the nation to be openly HIV-positive, McKeon's largest legislative achievement was an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act, which was passed in 2005. The amendment, which took 30 years to pass, banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas such as housing and employment.

In the House, McKeon served as chair of the Labor Committee and vice chair of the Housing & Urban Development Committee. He was also a member of the Aging and Executive Committees, among others. He was elected to five consecutive terms.

Prior to becoming a state legislator, McKeon was Mayor Richard M. Daley's liaison to the LGBT community, and served as the director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations' Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues. In that role, he advocated for gay rights and worked closely with local politicians on issues close to the LGBT community.

Before entering the world of politics, McKeon served in a number of social service administration roles. He also worked as a police officer and administrator for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, an educator at various universities and a community activist. He was involved in community organizations such as the Ravenswood Community Council, and served as a board member of Horizons and Bonaventure House. McKeon, an Idaho native, was also a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he began his career in public service as a first lieutenant.

Over the years, several LGBT organizations honored McKeon for his work on behalf of the community, including Dignity/Chicago, the Human Rights Campaign, Howard Brown Health Center and IMPACT Illinois, to name a few. McKeon was also a recipient of a Red Ribbon Leadership Award and a Stonewall Award for his outstanding service to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities.

After his retirement, McKeon moved to Springfield. He continued to be active during the legislative session, offering a helping hand with policy consulting and more.

THERE WILL BE MORE COMING FOR THIS VIDEO BY LATE JUNE. This is the last half of the interview.

  Video Interview Date: 2007-05-17 Interviewer: Tracy Baim

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, the book is edited by Tracy Baim and features the contributions of more than 20 prominent historians and journalists. It is published by Surrey Books, an Agate imprint, and is hard cover, 224 pages, 4-color, with nearly 400 photos.
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