In December 1994, the Berwyn City Council was considering legislation recommended by the Community Relations Task Force. One of the recommendations by was an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and accommodations. The ordinance protected people based on race, sex, ethnic origin and other categories, including sexual orientation. The fact that sexual orientation was protected caused consternation among some members of the clergy. The Berwyn Life printed an article indicating several members of the clergy would oppose the sexual orientation clause of the Community Relations Ordinance.
An Urgent Need Arises
Jane A. read the article in the Berwyn Life and contacted several individuals in the Berwyn area as well as the Oak Park Area Gay and Lesbian Association (OPALGA) about attending the hearing on the Community Relations Ordinance that occurred on December 21, 1994.
No Uproar at All
Well, our friends from the Berwyn Life were right about the fact of the opposition, but not about the extent of the opposition. There was not any kind of uproar at all. In fact, at the hearing on December 21, only eight people testified and seventeen people in total attended the meeting. Of the eight people who testified, three people testified in favor of keeping the sexual orientation clause, three people testified against the sexual orientation clause, and two people testified on other matters--not exactly an outbreak of community opposition. The mayor indicated that he had received five phone calls on the matter - only one of them concerned the sexual orientation clause. The ministers who testified against the inclusion of the sexual orientation clause expressed concern homosexuals were child molesters and this ordinance would allow child molesters loose in Berwyn. The sense of the council was there did not seem to be much interest in the sexual orientation clause, one way or the other. One alderman indicated he would have liked to have heard from other residents of Berwyn about this. Therefore, the council scheduled another hearing on December 27, which was to precede the regular City Council meeting.
GLBT Voices Ignored in News Report
However, if one were to have read the Berwyn Life article on December 25, one would have received a distinctly different impression of the hearing. First, the writer for the Berwyn Life did not mention any of the three people who testified in favor of the sexual orientation clause in the ordinance.
Second, the article made it appear that there was widespread opposition in the hearing when, in fact, only eight people testified and only three of those eight testified against the sexual orientation clause.
Local Clergy Support GLBT Inclusion
After the hearing, Jane along with Don B. contacted more people to attend the hearing on December 27. A large contingent of gays and lesbians attended the second hearing. When the ordinance came up on the agenda, several community members including Susan G. and Tom K. spoke in favor of keeping sexual orientation as a protected class. Clergy from the First Congregational Church of Berwyn and St. Mary of Celle Catholic Church added their voices supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Community Relations Ordinance. Nevertheless, the City Council voted 8 to 0 to remove the sexual orientation clause from the ordinance.
Time to Organize
In January, Jane A. called those people who had been at the council meeting and asked them if they were interested in forming a gay and lesbian organization in Berwyn. Several meetings took place in January and February that resulted in the formation of the Berwyn United Neighborhood Gay And Lesbian Organization (BUNGALO). In these meetings, BUNGALO decided on its mission, objectives and activities, drafted and approved its by-laws and elected its first board of directors and officers. Ted K. and Jane A. were elected co-chairs of the organization, Tom K. was elected secretary, Susan G. was elected treasurer and April O. and Don B. were elected at-large members on the board of directors. On March 26, 1995, BUNGALO was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in the State of Illinois. On March 12, 1995, BUNGALO held its first membership meeting to recruit new members.
Finally, GLBT Included in Ordinance
On May 27, 2008 the Berwyn City Council added sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination ordinance, with no apparent opposition. The lobbying of GLBT persons, along with their constant involvement as responsible citizens of Berwyn, had helped to turn the tide.
From these beginnings, BUNGALO has grown to over one hundred paid members.