Illinois moves toward gender inclusivity as others move away

May 8, 2023, 1:56 PM

FILE - Illinois state Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, rises to speak on the floor of the Illinois Sen...

FILE - Illinois state Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, rises to speak on the floor of the Illinois Senate at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill., May 30, 2021. Illinois bills that would update existing laws to be more gender inclusive and add protections for LGBTQ marriages are ready for action by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he will sign them. The trio of state bills, passed Thursday, May 4, 2023, are meant to move the state in the “opposite direction” as those restricting transgender and LGBTQ youth, according to Simmons, the bills’ sponsor and the first and only current “out” LGBTQ lawmaker in the Illinois Senate. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, File)

(Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois bills that would update existing laws to be more gender inclusive and add protections for LGBTQ marriages are ready for action by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he will sign them.

The trio of state bills passed last week are meant to move the state in the “opposite direction” of those restricting transgender and LGBTQ youth, said Sen. Mike Simmons, the bills’ sponsor and the first and only current “out” LGBTQ lawmaker in the Illinois Senate.

Illinois is one of a surge of anti-LGBTQ legislation in mostly Republican-led states.

On the same day just a few hours away, Indiana’s governor signed a bill that will require schools to notify a parent if a student requests a name or pronoun change at school, one of several bills this legislative session targeting LGBTQ people in the state.

Illinois’ neighbors to the west, Iowa, have gone in a similar direction by restricting gender-affirming care and the bathrooms transgender students can use.

The Illinois Democratic supermajority passed the bills out of the Senate on Thursday, and the measures now await Pritzker’s signature.

“The Governor is proud to support legislation that creates a more welcoming, affirming, and inclusive Illinois,” said spokesperson Alex Gough on Friday.

“In the face of rising violence and bigotry toward the trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming community, providing support and recognition for those who identify as LGBTQ+ has never been more important,” Gough said.

One bill would replace certain pronouns with the nouns to which the pronouns refer, such as “minor” instead of “he or she,” and “person who gives birth” in place of “mother” in some existing laws concerning children in the state’s care.

Before her “no” vote, Republican Caucus Whip Sen. Jil Tracy said: “I gave birth to two boys that weighed over 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). I think I deserve more dignity that just ‘a person who gave birth.’ I’m a mother.”

The Illinois Family Institute, a Christian nonprofit, opposes all three bills.

David Curtin, the institute’s lobbyist, said the bill on pronouns is “tinkering” with terms that are legally important, and “there’s only two genders, and its male and female and him and her. So why not just stay with the program?”

Changing the language of laws “doesn’t change reality,” Curtin said.

Simmons said that the bill is primarily intended to affirm LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system, which a 2021 audit found that Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services has failed to do.

Young people in DCFS’ care have “repeatedly” relayed to ACLU Illinois lobbyist Nora Collins-Mandeville “the challenges that they have with folks identifying their family members correctly or their own identities correctly,” she said.

“Language matters,” said Collins-Mandeville, who worked with Simmons on the bill. “Contrary to some of the opposition … it actually includes more people and allows people to identify themselves.”

Another bill would require state agencies to track employees who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming to help achieve workforce diversity, and a third bill would make it easier for LGBTQ couples who resided in other states to marry in Illinois.

When the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion in June, the ruling included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested the high court should review other precedent-setting rulings, including the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The marriage bill is meant to serve as fail-safe in case that decision is reversed, Simmons said.

“What we’re trying to do is get ahead of any actions that might be taken to invalidate Obergefell or any of those other cases that would have a direct and disastrous impact on LGBTQ households in the country,” he said, referring to the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act, signed by President Joe Biden in December, enshrines the right to same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law.

For Chicago lawmaker Simmons, the three Illinois bills are personal. “There are so many other state legislatures right now that are making a sport of targeting my community,” he said.

“So many people fought so hard for me to even have the right to exist, to be able to be an out and proud, Black, LGBTQ+ state senator,” he said. But the current political climate is “dispiriting at times,” Simmons said.

“There’s several states that are going light years back on LGBTQ and civil rights.” he said. “Everything is going backwards.” ___

Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

National News

Associated Press

US, Taiwan sign trade deal over China’s opposition

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States signed a trade agreement Thursday with Taiwan over opposition from China, which claims the self-ruled island democracy as part of its territory. The two governments say the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade will strengthen commercial relations by improving customs, investment and other regulation. The measure was signed by […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

Despite flags, Border Patrol staff didn’t review fragile 8-year-old girl’s file before she died

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) — Border Patrol medical staff declined to review the file of an 8-year-old girl with a chronic heart condition and rare blood disorder before she appeared to have a seizure and died on her ninth day in custody, an internal investigation found. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said the Panamanian child’s […]

22 hours ago

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Platte County Sheriff's Office shows Lorna Roxanne Green ...

Associated Press

College student accused of setting fire to Wyoming’s only abortion clinic to enter plea

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A college student who authorities say admitted setting fire to a building slated to become Wyoming’s only full-service abortion clinic was scheduled to appear in federal court Friday to enter a plea to an arson charge. Lorna Roxanne Green, 22, told investigators that she opposes abortion and was experiencing anxiety and […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

Iowa officials expected to detail demolition plans for partially collapsed building

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Plans to demolish a partially collapsed six-story apartment building in Iowa could become clearer Friday, five days after much of the structure crumbled and left three tenants missing and feared dead. Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said Thursday he expected to announce a company “to do a very systematic approach to […]

22 hours ago

This May 26, 2023, photo provided by the Jennifer Schuh shows a Mastodon Tooth in the sand at an Ap...

Associated Press

Woman walking on California beach finds ancient mastodon tooth

APTOS, Calif. (AP) — A woman taking a Memorial Day weekend stroll on a California beach found something unusual sticking out of the sand: a tooth from an ancient mastodon. But then the fossil vanished, and it took a media blitz and a kind-hearted jogger to find it again. Jennifer Schuh found the foot-long (.30-meter) […]

22 hours ago

FILE - Clouds hover over the Oregon Capitol, Jan. 11, 2018, in Salem, Ore. Oregon Senate Democrats ...

Associated Press

Oregon Democrats vote to fine absent senators amid GOP walkout

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Senate Democrats plan to start fining their absent colleagues amid a month-long Republican walkout, a move they hope will pressure boycotting lawmakers to return to the chamber as hundreds of bills languish amid the partisan stalemate. In a procedural move Thursday, Democrats voted to fine senators $325 every time their […]

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Illinois moves toward gender inclusivity as others move away