Chicago's Lesbian Leader: Deborah Mell Is Trying to Convince Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to Support Same-Sex Marriage-After All, He Is Her Brother-in-Law

By Neff, Lisa | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), June 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Chicago's Lesbian Leader: Deborah Mell Is Trying to Convince Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to Support Same-Sex Marriage-After All, He Is Her Brother-in-Law


Neff, Lisa, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


In a city where citizens speak often of "clout," Deborah Mell has commanding connections. The 35-year-old lesbian landscape supervisor from Chicago's north side is the daughter of Richard Mell, a powerful Democratic alderman from the city's 33rd Ward. And she's the sister-in-law of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who opposes equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

In light of the recent push for same-sex marriage, Mell decided to take advantage of her family ties to lobby for gay rights. She has been seen walking the halls of the state capitol in Springfield and visiting the governor's mansion to persuade her brother-in-law to support marriage equality, all of which has gotten the attention of the Illinois political elite and the national medlar.

At a March 4 marriage rally in Chicago, Mell allegedly bumped into a police Officer, resulting in her arrest for battery, a charge she is fighting. She spoke with. The Advocate in mid April.

Your name first came up in media accounts of the Valentine's Day vigil at the Chicago home of Cardinal Francis George. Was that your first gay rights action?

Yeah, I guess I hadn't been in the loop before.

What brought you out that day?

I wanted to lend a voice. I was there because it was a visible protest for gay marriage. I don't really care what the cardinal thinks.

Many people were surprised to see your father join you at the demonstration.

I wasn't surprised, because he was concerned about me. To people who don't really know him, it might have seemed out of the ordinary. But ever since I came out [in college], he's been totally supportive. …

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