Today Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was joined Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago) Senate sponsors of House Bill 4371 (“Citizen Soldiers Initiative”) to protect Illinois’ citizen soldiers from discrimination in hiring practices, job promotions, housing opportunities and financial lending.
Just this week, four Illinois National Guard units – based in Chicago, North Riverside, Freeport and Peoria – were notified their tours of duty had been extended another 90 days.
“More than 90 soldiers have been killed this month, the bloodiest month since the war in Iraq began. Everyday citizens from Illinois are leaving their civilian jobs to report for hazardous duty fighting terrorism abroad,” said Quinn. “Why should these brave soldiers be victims of discrimination when they return home?”
“Our bill sends a message to employers and landlords that discrimination against anyone – especially our National Guard members and reservists – will not be tolerated in Illinois,” said Obama.
With so many Illinois National Guard and reserve units being forced to extend their tours of duty, Quinn also urged citizens on the homefront to make a donation to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to help the families of National Guard members and reservists who have been called to active duty to fight against terrorism.
House Bill 4371 would expand the term “military status” in the Human Rights Act to include National Guard members and reservists, not just active military service men and women, and protect them from discrimination.
Currently, National Guard members and reservists may not be hired by an employer due to the possibility of their absence for up to two years. This results in citizen soldiers being fearful of disclosing their military status on job application forms for fear they might not be hired. Also, financial institutions are reluctant to lend money to National Guard members and reservists.
In Illinois, there are 5,131 Illinois National Guard members and reservists on active duty. These citizen soldiers have a combined total of 8,100 dependents.
The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund - drafted by Quinn and unanimously passed by the General Assembly - was signed into law in February 2003, by Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Fund assists the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists called to active duty with rent, car payments and utility bills and has already received more than $91,100 in private donations. Some 2,333 families have received more than $1,231,000 from the Fund already.
“If you want to do something specific and concrete to support our troops, please consider sending a donation to the ‘Illinois Military Family Relief Fund’, P.O. Box 8889, Springfield, IL 62791,” Quinn urged. To find out more ways to help our troops, visit the website, www.OperationHomefront.org
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