License to Discriminate


Equality Illinois, state’s LGBTQ civil rights organization, condemns Trump’s policies

Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois
October 6, 2017

Equality Illinois stands in firm opposition to the guidance document issued today by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people. Using all the tools at our disposal, we will forcefully respond and defend the civil rights of LGBTQ people, who will face discrimination because of this license to discriminate.

This new guidance comes on the heels of a separate legal guidance yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination against transgender Americans and the memo issued this morning by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services permitting employers to deny basic coverage for contraception to women. We are appalled at this administration’s efforts to relegate LGBTQ people and women to second-class citizens.

This is wrong, shameful, and contrary to our shared American values of equality, inclusion, and justice. We will resist.

Our response is unequivocal. First, we call on the Illinois congressional delegation to challenge this policy and affirm Illinois values of inclusion, justice, and equality.

Make no mistake: Sessions’ guidance is a license to discriminate. The First Amendment protects the freedom of religion. However, Sessions’ license to discriminate goes beyond the First Amendment by providing legal cover to government actors who seek to discriminate in their work as government officials.

Furthermore, the guidance document is contrary to our laws and values in Illinois. Illinois is a leader in advancing the civil rights of all people, including LGBTQ Illinoisans. Since 2005, the Illinois Human Rights Act has protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Let’s keep it that way. Businesses that operate in Illinois must understand that state law still prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ employees, clients, and customers.

While Illinois-based employees of federal contractors are still protected by Illinois laws protecting LGBTQ people from non-discrimination, this executive order still poses a meaningful threat to LGBTQ equality in our state, including for thousands of federal workers here. For those Illinoisans who cross state lines to work for federal contractors in other states without Illinois’ robust protections, their jobs may now be at risk.  And when LGBTQ Illinoisans live in a country where the leaders of the federal government seek to permit open discrimination on LGBTQ workers, the freedom many of us feel to live openly and authentically in the work place is threatened.

We are not going anywhere. The Illinois Congressional delegation must stand up to this fear-mongering and not allow this guidance to become a template for further exclusion of LGBTQ people in the fabric of America.

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