Illinois Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Gay Citizens from Discrimination

The Illinois legislature approved a bill last week to amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to include protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit. The Chicago Tribune reports that the passing vote of 65-51 in the Illinois House was the result of urging from several African-American legislators who likened the legislation to that which was considered and passed decades ago during the civil rights movement.

Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) pledged to sign the bill, which he lobbied along with his sister-in-law Deborah Mell, a gay rights activist. Illinois is the 15th state to enact such a law, according to the Washington Post. The Tribune reports that the director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights expects roughly 300 complaints to be filed in 2005 after the governor signs the bill into law. Similar anti-discrimination ordinances were already in place in Chicago, Cook County, and 14 other cities in Illinois.

“I think [the legislators] did it because they knew it was the right thing to do,” state Senator Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) told the Tribune. “Illinois is your fundamental Midwestern values state. We believe in fairness and equality, and I think that’s ultimately what made this possible.”

A poll conducted last month showed that nearly two-thirds of Illinois residents surveyed supported the bill protecting gays from discrimination, also demonstrating that levels of support were almost identical between Democrats and Republicans, according to the Windy City Times.

A coalition of 22 organizations recently released a joint list of priorities for the gay rights movement, the Washington Post reports, announcing their determination to pursue an aggressive agenda in spite of the current administration and the conservative majority in congress. Joint goals include a push for equal employment opportunities, overturning restrictions on gays in the military, same-sex marriage, protection of children of gay parents, and opposing anti-gay legislation at the state and federal levels.


Chicago Tribune 1/16/05, 1/12/05; Washington Post 1/17/05; Windy City Times 12/29/04

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