Mission and Accomplishments


Equality Illinois builds a better Illinois by advancing equal treatment and social justice through education, advocacy and protection of the rights of the LGBTQ community.


Equality Illinois envisions a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect and where all people live freely regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.


Inclusiveness: Equality Illinois belongs to all those who believe in its vision and mission. Staff and volunteers will be accessible to and proactively engage others in EI’s statewide community as owners of the vision and mission.

Respect: Equality Illinois believes in the value of others — their opinions and their work. It is respect for others that builds collaborations and partnerships.

Fairness: Equality Illinois believes that everyone should have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities afforded to them regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Equality Illinois …


  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov in the Executive Mansion after the marriage bill passed on Nov. 5, 2013

    Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (right) and Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov in the Executive Mansion after the marriage bill passed on Nov. 5, 2013

    Successfully pursued state legislative action on the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which passed in 2013 and is in effect as of June 1, 2014, bringing marriage equality to Illinois, when all loving, committed Illinois couples and their families are eligible for the more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits that come from marriage, and the couples have the same recognition that opposite-sex couples have enjoyed. After the introduction of civil unions, Equality Illinois conducted an assessment that found that civil unions were not enough to ensure the equal rights and privileges promised to same-sex couples in Illinois under the civil union law.

  • Promoted, lobbied for, won passage, and defended the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (civil union law) in 2010, which sought to provide the same benefits, obligations and responsibilities of marriage (under state law). The major benefits include hospital visitation, healthcare decision making, inheritance and probate rights. However, its shortcomings demonstrated the need for full marriage equality.
  • Worked in coalition with partner groups to advance and pass the Safe Schools Act, which was signed into law in June 2010, and have subsequently worked to strengthen the law.
  • Promoted, lobbied for, and won passage of amendments to the Human Rights Act in 2005, prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Lobbied for and won passage in 2015 of a ban on conversion therapy of LGBTQ minors by public health professionals.
  • Lobbied for and won passage of a bill enhancing hate crime protections in 2015, adding gender identity to the protected classes that previously included sexual orientation.
  • Lobbied for and won passage of a bill to ban the anti-LGBTQ panic defense in murder cases in 2017.
  • Lobbied for and won passage of a bill in 2017 to modernize the Illinois birth certificate law so transgender and intersex Illinoisans are no longer required to have surgery before being allowed to correct their birth certificate.
  • Illinois Senate President John Cullerton at an Equality Illinois reception in 2016

    Lobbied for and won passage of a bill in 2017 to build LGBTQ membership on state boards and commissions and create a path for LGBTQ Illinoisans to run for office.

  • Lobbied for and won passage of a bill in 2015 to require funeral directors to followed the final funeral and burial wishes of transgender Illinoisans.
  • Developed a ground breaking “Get Out the Vote” campaign, Vote Naked Illinois, which received extensive media coverage statewide and around the globe. The campaign led to over 75,000 mail-in votes in the 2010 election in Cook County/City of Chicago alone.
  • Registered thousands of new Illinois voters, and developed a strong network of over 40,000 human rights supporters throughout Illinois and beyond.
  • Educated and informed citizens of Illinois and members of the General Assembly, and worked to raise awareness of issues confronting LGBTQ individuals in the community and the workplace.
  • Expanded statewide grassroots support for LGBTQ issues and initiatives, individually, as well as in partnership with religious institutions and other community organizations.
  • Targeted information and services to populations that have been disenfranchised, such as women, minorities and youth.
  • Assisted businesses in development of welcoming and inclusive workplace policies.
  • Conducted polls and surveys of public attitudes on civil rights issues.
  • Educated the media and encouraged public discussion about these issues.