Equality Illinois unveiled its 2016 legislative agenda Friday, highlighting three issues the LGBT advocacy group supports and two bills it opposes.
Specifically, the group is in support of three measures that "prohibit the use of panic defenses in murder cases, implement non-discrimination protections for jury service, and modernize the process to change gender markers on birth certificates." Equality Illinois opposes two bills that "turn back the clock on the rights of LGBT Illinoisans" by making way for exemptions to the state's anti-discriminiation laws, according to the group.
"We know the fight for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Illinoisans is not over," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. "That's why we are pushing forward on proposals that advance the equal rights of LGBT Illinoisans and raising the alarm about measures that seek to take away rights that have existed for years."
The bill's Equality Illinois supports are:
* SB 3046, an initiative of Equality Illinois, would prohibit the use of a panic defense in murder cases. These panic defenses are based on the premise that a defendant accused of a violent crime against another party justifies the assault on the grounds that the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant's violent reaction. The so-called "gay panic defense" and "trans panic defense" are rooted in the stigmatization of LGBT people. The panic defense was first used in Illinois in 1972. In 2013, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution urging governments to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the panic defenses. In 2014, California became the first state to legislatively ban the use of the panic defenses. SB 3046 is sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss.
* SB 3286, an initiative of Equality Illinois, establishes non-discrimination protections in jury service. The bill prevents a party to a case in state court from using a preemptory challenge to remove a prospective juror on the basis of their race, color, religion, national origin, economic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Presently, Illinois does not have a jury service non-discrimination statute for any protected class. Many other states and the federal government have such protections. However, only eleven states prohibit discrimination in jury service on the basis of sexual orientation. Of those, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon established protections through statute. Only California, Colorado, Minnesota, and Oregon protect transgender individuals from such discrimination. If a jury of one's peers is to be representative of the community, such non-discrimination protections are essential. SB 3286 is sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson.
* HB 6073, which is an initiative of a coalition including Equality Illinois, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, and other organizations, would modernize the standard for a person to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. Presently, a physician must submit an affidavit that the person has undergone a gender reassignment operation, a procedure which may actually be unnecessary, harmful, or prohibitively out of reach for some individuals. As a result of that operation, the gender marker on the birth certificate should be changed. Consistent with modern standards of care, HB 6073 provides that a mental health or medical professional would declare that the person has undergone clinically appropriate treatment or has an intersex condition and, therefore, the gender marker should be changed. The federal government and eleven other states have adopted a similar standard. To avoid humiliation and harassment, it is critically important for transgender and intersex individuals to have identification documents that reflect their authentic gender identity. This bill will relieve them of a serious burden. HB 6073 is sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris.
Equality Illinois also continues our engagement with the Responsible Budget Coalition to ensure the state adopts a responsible and fair budget plan that provides adequate revenues to protect vital services and programs for Illinois families, children, and communities. Recently, we participated in the State of OUR State rally that took place immediately before Governor Rauner delivered his State of the State address on January 27. Budget advocacy is a central piece of our 2016 legislative agenda.
The advocacy group plans to push back against the following bills:
Equality Illinois will continue to lead opposition to anti-equality measures SB 2164 and HB 4474. Introduced by Sen. Kyle McCarter last summer, SB 2164 would provide individuals, non-profits, and businesses the right to claim a religious belief or moral conviction that would allow them to discriminate against same-sex couples, LGBT individuals, and single heterosexual parents. The bill is identical to the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which was introduced last year in the U.S. Congress.
The second bill, HB 4474, which is sponsored by Rep. Tom Morrison, would prohibit transgender and gender non-conforming students from using the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. Instead, a school district may permit the student to use a single-occupancy or faculty facility. Shortly after the bill's introduction, Equality Illinois joined 13 other organizations on a joint statement in opposition to this blatantly discriminatory bill and in support of transgender and gender non-confirming students.