The last municipal election in Bloomington-Normal was notable for the diversity of candidates. They included several women, African-Americans, a Muslim American, and an Illinois State University student. Among those elected were two openly gay women, married with children.
Normal Township Trustee Samantha Quigle and District 87 School Board member Elizabeth Fox Anvick say their election marks a significant turning point for the community.
“In a relatively small community like Bloomington-Normal, this is a milestone,” Quigle said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. “It provides an opportunity for community members to get to know us, to make a connection.”
“These are the little baby steps we continue to take toward equality,” Fox Anvick said.
Both women made no secret of their sexual orientation during the campaign, but it never became an issue.
“In all of the places I was talking to people, getting to meet the people who were going to be voting for me, it never once came up as an issue at all. That shows the steps we’ve made as a community,” Anvick said.
Anvick, who is a technical analyst at State Farm, said she was motivated to run mainly because she and her spouse have two daughters who attend District 87 schools.
“It was not like I took a look at what’s happening in District 87 and said, 'Oh boy, we need a gay person on the school board!' I was very interested in what was happening as a parent within the district,” Fox Anvick said.
She said her parents and most of her friends are educators. “I see what they can give back to the community through their work.”
Quigle is a personal trainer who has her own exercise gym, Positive Training. Her spouse, Rebecca Rossi, actually paved the way as the first openly gay person elected to office in McLean County when she won a six-year seat on the Normal Library Board in 2015.
“Ever since I’ve been in Bloomington-Normal I have been able to be who I am. So when people get to know me and ask me are you married, I say, yes, my wife is Rebecca. I don’t even hesitate for a second,” Quigle said.
Fox Anvick said she believes it took so long for members of the LGBT community to run for office openly because Bloomington-Normal is in many ways a conservative community.
“Bloomington-Normal is very Republican. That’s not saying Republicans don’t like LGBT people, that’s not what I’m saying. But I think the happenings in November kick-started a lot of this movement of new people running for office,” Fox Anvick said, referring to the election of Donald Trump as well as a Republican-controlled Congress.
One of the responsibilities of Normal Township trustees is the Adult Recreation Center in Normal for people over 55 years of age. Quigle said she hopes her election will help build greater understanding of the LGBT community among older citizens.
Both said they would provide a voice for LGBT concerns, but did not envision advocating specifically for the LGBT community in their elected roles, unless a particular issue arises.
Fox Anvick said she recently advocated for installing a non-specific gender restroom at Bloomington High School near the band room. However, she was thinking mainly of helping parents who bring along their small children when they volunteer in the band program.
“They may have smaller kids and may want to take their child into a family-style bathroom. Everyone was very amenable to listening to that when I said, has anyone thought of this?” Fox Anvick said.
She said, however, she brings to the board a particular sensitivity to what gay and transgender students sometimes face in a school setting.
Both Quigle and Fox said they look forward to the day when it is no longer news when an openly gay person runs for or wins office.
“Eventually, I hope in my lifetime we’ll get to a point where we don’t have to talk about this,” Quigle said.
But the community isn’t quite there yet, Fox Anvick noted. “For some kids out there, we still have to have this conversation,” she said.
Both said they hope their success as candidates will inspire more members of the LGBT community to seek public office.
“We have to continually be a part of the community and be the change we want to see,” Fox Anvick said.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.