SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Equality Illinois announced on Monday its 2017 legislative agenda, a package of bills to advance the civil rights protections of LGBTQ Illinoisans in the criminal justice system, improve representation on public boards and commissions and assist transgender Illinoisans.
The organization’s robust agenda for the 2017 session of the Illinois General Assembly responds to ongoing challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Illinoisans. Those challenges were exacerbated by the fears and anxiety of many LGBTQ people that civil rights protections may be rolled back at the federal level by the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress.
“With the rights of transgender Americans, LGBTQ immigrants, Muslims, and women already under attack by the Trump Administration, we at Equality Illinois know that it is incumbent upon the State of Illinois to continue its progress as a truly welcoming and affirming place for all people, including LGBTQ Illinoisans,” said Brian C. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois, the state’s LGBTQ civil rights organization.
“We are offering this robust agenda that advances justice and civil rights protections for LGBTQ Illinoisans so we may truly live equal lives. We call on the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Rauner to quickly enact these bills.”
Equality Illinois Director of Public Policy Mike Ziri has been working in the state capitol with legislative partners and allied organizations to seek passage of the following bills introduced in recent days:
SB 1761, an initiative of Equality Illinois, would curtail use of a panic defense in murder cases. These panic defenses are based on the premise that a defendant accused of a violent crime against another party justifies the assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction. The so-called “gay panic defense” and ”trans panic defense” are rooted in the stigmatization of LGBTQ people. The panic defense was first used in Illinois in 1972 and most recently in 2009. In 2013, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution urging governments to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the panic defenses. The Illinois initiative is sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford).
There are currently no statutory non-discrimination prohibitions for picking a jury in Illinois. SB 889 and HB 2431 are initiatives of Equality Illinois to establish non-discrimination protections in jury service in Illinois on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, order of protection status, disability, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, or unfavorable military discharge. No person who is qualified and able to serve should be excluded from jury service. Many other states and the federal government have such non-discrimination protections. If a jury of one’s peers is to be representative of the community, such non-discrimination protections are essential in Illinois. This legislative proposal would bring our judicial system nearer to eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal protection under the law. The proposal is sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) and Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside).
SB 1670, another Equality Illinois initiative, is designed to encourage the development of LGBTQ Illinoisans for public service. It would allow individuals applying to boards and commissions under the authority of the Governor's Office to voluntarily self-identify as LGBTQ. The Governor's Office would have to include the data in the Governor's annual report to the General Assembly of the demographic data of individuals who apply for boards and commissions and for those who are appointed. Presently, applicants already self-identify their ethnicity, gender, and disability status, and the Governor’s Office reports that data to the legislature. Our initiative will further ensure that gubernatorial appointees reflect the great diversity of Illinois. It will also contribute to a leadership path for LGBTQ individuals who want to engage in public service. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).
HB 1785 would modernize the standard for a person to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. The bill is an initiative of a coalition including Equality Illinois, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Howard Brown Health Center, Lambda Legal, and AIDS Foundation of Chicago. HB 1785 would move Illinois into the 21st century by aligning the standards in statute with modern standards of medical care for transgender individuals. The federal government and fourteen other states have adopted a similar standard. To avoid humiliation, discrimination, and harassment, it is critically important for transgender individuals to have identification documents that reflect their authentic gender identity. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).
The Equality Illinois 2017 Legislative Agenda includes participation in the Responsible Budget Coalition campaign to secure a fair state budget supported by reasonable revenue sources.
Equality Illinois is also working with allies in Springfield against two measures which would set back LGBTQ rights in the state: SB 64 would establish a license to discriminate against LGBTQ Illinoisans under the guise of “religious freedom,” and HB 664 would force transgender students to use separate restrooms and locker rooms from their peers in schools.