Equality Illinois 2017 Legislative Agenda Advances LGBTQ Civil Rights
Signed into law: Banning panic defense, building visibility on state boards,
and modernizing birth certificate changes
The Equality Illinois 2017 legislative agenda is 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.
Our robust agenda for the 2017 session of the Illinois General Assembly responded to ongoing challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Illinoisans. Equality Illinois also supported several bills initiated by other organizations that advance justice in Illinois. And we opposed some measures that seek to restrict the rights of LGBTQ Illinoisans.
These priorities are informed by the fears and anxiety of many LGBTQ people as civil rights protections are being rolled back at the federal level by the Trump Administration and perhaps by 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 offered this robust agenda that advances justice and civil rights protections for LGBTQ Illinoisans so we may truly live equal lives.”
Equality Illinois Director of Public Policy Mike Ziri led our advocacy in the state Capitol with legislative partners and allied organizations on these priorities. (Status of bills listed below is as of Sept. 28, 2017.)
Equality Illinois Agenda
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). STATUS: Passed Senate May 5 by 41-0, and passed the House May 31 104-0. Signed by the governor on Aug. 25.
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). STATUS: Passed the Senate on April 27 by 46-4 and passed the House on May 24 by 95-12. Signed by Gov. Rauner on Aug. 18.
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). STATUS: The House passed bill 63-43 on May 25, and the Senate approved it 32-22 on May 31. Signed by Gov. Rauner on Aug. 25.
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 Also Supports
HB 40 ensures access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare in Illinois by repealing anti-choice language in the Illinois Criminal Code and providing access to such care to individuals whose health care needs are covered by Medicaid and state employee health insurance plans. HB 40 is sponsored by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). STATUS: Passed the House 62-55 on April 26 and passed the Senate 33-22 on May 10. Gov. Rauner signed HB 40 on Sept. 28.
With HB 426 (Immigration Safe Zones Act), schools, medical facilities, and places of worship in Illinois wouldn’t have to give access to federal immigration authorities or local law enforcement working on their behalf without a warrant. State agencies and schools would be barred from asking about immigration status on applications, questionnaires, or interview forms. HB 426 is sponsored by Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Westchester). STATUS: Awaiting House action.
HB 2394 provides legal authority to 4-year public universities in Illinois to provide financial aid to undocumented students who already qualify for in-state tuition. Also, the bill prevents a university from denying financial aid to a person who has been convicted of possession or sale of cannabis, controlled substances, or methamphetamine if they otherwise qualify for the financial aid. HB 2394 is sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) and Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria). STATUS: Awaiting House action.
An initiative of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, HB 3711 updates the Illinois hate crimes law by strengthening the reach of protections from hate crimes, ensuring all victims of hate crimes are afforded a civil remedy, establishing a civil penalty, and providing the Illinois Attorney General with civil enforcement authority. The bill enhances an underlying legal framework – the hate crimes law – that LGBTQ people rely upon for justice. Ensuring that this legal mechanism is strong and robust is all the more important following the dramatic increase in hate crimes. HB 3711 is sponsored by Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford). STATUS: Passed the House 89-22 on April 26 and passed the Senate on May 26 44-11. Signed by Gov. Rauner on Aug. 18.
Equality Illinois Opposes
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. STATUS: SB 64 held in Senate subcommittee. HB 664 held in House Rules Committee.