Equality Illinois Press Release

Ending Conversion Therapy and Strengthening Gender Identity Rights
Contained in Bills Signed by Gov. Rauner

CHICAGO (August 20, 2015) – Two major pro-equality bills that were legislative priorities of Equality Illinois, including a measure to protect LGBT youth by prohibiting the discredited and dangerous practice of conversion therapy, became law today after being signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Equality Illinois led the statewide effort to secure passage of the bills and campaigned for their approval by Gov. Rauner.

House Bill 217 is significant legislation that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in Illinois from discredited and dangerous efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Also known as “conversion therapy,” such efforts are extremely harmful to the physical and mental well-being of young people.

The governor also signed House Bill 3552, which allows a person to specify his or her gender identity in binding funeral and burial instructions.

“We thank Governor Rauner for approving these bills and demonstrating that support for the equal treatment of LGBT Illinoisans is bipartisan,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the oldest and largest advocacy organization for LGBT Illinoisans. Cherkasov noted that the legislative leaders from both parties were instrumental in helping secure bipartisan votes for the measures.

“With the governor’s approval of House Bill 217, LGBT youth in Illinois are protected from dangerous and coercive efforts to change who they truly are,” said Cherkasov. “Special thanks must go to Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Daniel Biss for their dedication and leadership on this bill. I also want to thank Curtis Galloway and Christian Lowe, ‘conversion therapy’ survivors who shared their personal stories with the legislature and world in a very public way and helped move this bill to final passage and approval by the governor.”

HB 217 protects LGBT youth by prohibiting licensed mental health providers from engaging in “conversion therapy” with minors. Licensed professionals who violate the law are subject to discipline by the appropriate licensing and regulatory entity of the State of Illinois.

Also, according to the bill, no person or entity may offer “conversion therapy services” in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness. To do so constitutes a violation of the state’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. This provision is especially relevant now following a recent New Jersey jury’s unanimous ruling that “conversion therapy” constitutes consumer fraud.

HB 217 was supported by the major mental health organizations in Illinois, including the Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Psychological Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The bill passed the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan support. HB 217 becomes effective on January 1, 2016. Illinois joins California, New Jersey, Oregon, and the District of Columbia in protecting LGBT youth from “conversion therapy.”

HB 3552 expressly allows a person to designate his or her gender identity in funeral and burial instructions and requires that the instructions be followed. Such instructions may include, but are not limited to, appearance, chosen name, and preferred pronouns. The individual may make such instructions regardless of whether he or she has obtained a court-ordered name change, changed the gender marker on any identification documents, or underwent any transition-related medical treatment. These instructions must be faithfully carried out by the person authorized to control the disposition of the decedent’s remains and by funeral homes.

“With this bill, transgender Illinoisans have solace that their last wishes will be respected,” said Cherkasov. “We thank Sen. William Delgado and Rep. Will Guzzardi, the bill’s chief legislative sponsors. HB 3552 is even more special as it is the first bill Rep. Guzzardi passed out of the Illinois House, evidence of his commitment to equality for all Illinoisans.”

The legislation is necessary because of situations where a person’s gender identity was altered or disrespected by family members or funeral directors. At a time of mourning, this has caused shock to friends and family members of the deceased and demonstrated a lack of respect.

HB 3552 passed the Illinois Senate unanimously and the Illinois House with a bipartisan 79 votes. The bill becomes effective on January 1, 2016.

Previously, Gov. Rauner signed another top priority than enhances Illinois hates crimes protections. HB 3930, which explicitly covers gender identity and protect LGBT community centers from institutional vandalism, was signed by the governor on July 20.

Despite the approval of these bills, there remains important unfinished business during the continuing legislative session: Equality Illinois remains focused on ensuring a fully-funded, fair, and responsible Fiscal Year 2016 budget blueprint that protects vital services for the most vulnerable Illinoisans, including homeless youth and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. As a member of the Responsible Budget Coalition, Equality Illinois opposes service cuts and supports revenue enhancements to ensure vital services are funded.