Stopping Discriminatory Legislation Targeting Transgender Students in Illinois
January 27, 2017
As organizations that work with LGBTQ communities, we call on the Illinois General Assembly to reject discriminatory legislation introduced this week that would isolate and stigmatize transgender and gender non-conforming youth by forcing them to use separate restrooms and locker rooms from their peers in schools.
House Bill 664 is sponsored by State Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) and is similar to a bill he introduced in the previous session of the General Assembly. With outreach to legislators and grassroots advocacy, we stopped that bill. We will stop HB 664 while continuing our advocacy for policies that respect and affirm the dignity of all students in Illinois.
HB 664 sends the harmful and mean-spirited message to transgender and gender non-conforming students that they are not respected and valued in their schools, the very spaces where they should be safe and affirmed. School should be a place for learning and growing, not fear and being ostracized. Further, we know it is critical to the mental and physical health of transgender and gender non-conforming people that they be able to live according to their gender identity.
Just last year, medical and mental health professionals dedicated to serving the best interests of all youth released a letter to the nation’s governors regarding the dangers of legislation such as HB 664. The signatories included the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American School Counselor Association, Child Welfare League of America, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association. They wrote: “Transgender kids are already at heightened risk for violence, bullying and harassment, and these bills exacerbate those risks by creating a hostile environment in one of the places they should feel the safest and most supported. In addition, students who would be affected by these bills are among our most vulnerable to experiencing depression and engaging in self harm, including suicide.”
HB 664 is also out of touch with what is currently happening in schools across Illinois and nationally. At a time when school districts across Illinois are adopting affirming policies that respect and support all students, including students who are transgender and gender non-conforming, HB 664 would impose an anti-LGBTQ agenda on all schools. Instead of moving HB 664 forward in the legislative process, state legislators should focus on the real problems with our school system, including, but not limited to, severe funding disparities and the harassment and bullying of LGBTQ youth.
We know HB 664 is part of a national effort by anti-LGBTQ organizations to enact laws and policies that isolate and stigmatize transgender and gender non-conforming people. In February 2016, legislation similar to HB 664 passed the South Dakota legislature, but the Republican governor vetoed it. One month later, North Carolina’s legislature and then-Governor Pat McCrory enacted the notorious HB 2, which eliminated local civil rights protections for LGBTQ people. In just the first month of 2017, lawmakers in sixteen states have shamefully introduced at least 40 bills that target LGBTQ people for discrimination.
HB 664 is inconsistent with the Land of Lincoln’s shared values of inclusivity, equality, and fairness. Our Human Rights Act protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing. Our anti-bullying statute supports LGBTQ youth. And we protect LGBTQ youth from harmful, discredited conversion therapy. Illinois is better than HB 664.
We are resolved that Illinois will stand firm for treating transgender and gender non-conforming students with dignity and ensuring that our schools are affirming environments that respect all students.
A Wider Bridge Chicago
Affinity Community Services
African-American Lesbian Professionals Having a Say (Quad Cities)
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois
Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action
Center on Halsted
Central Illinois Pride Health Center (Bloomington-Normal)
Chicago Youth Storage Initiative
Howard Brown Health Center
Illinois Collaboration on Youth
Illinois Safe Schools Alliance
Legal Council for Health Justice
National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore Section
The Night Ministry
Outside the Lines LGBTQ Youth Group (Kankakee)
PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois
Phoenix Center (Springfield)
Planned Parenthood of Illinois
Prairie Pride Coalition (Bloomington-Normal)
Pride Action Tank
Rainbow Cafe (Carbondale)
TransLife Care Program
Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County