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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2004

QUINN, OBAMA AND CHAPA LAVIA JOIN TO CELEBRATE LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL OF “ILLINOIS CITIZEN SOLDIER INITIATIVE” “Illinois Citizen Soldier Initiative” would act to protect Illinois National Guard members and reservists from employment, housing or lending discrimination

SPRINGFIELD—On the eve of Memorial Day Weekend - Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was joined by Sen. Barack Obama               (D-Chicago) and Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), to celebrate legislative approval of the landmark “Illinois Citizen Soldier Initiative” to protect Illinois’ citizen soldiers from discrimination in hiring practices,
job promotions, housing opportunities and financial lending. 
 
                        Quinn also saluted the Elks Club of Illinois for making a $30,000 contribution to the Illinois Military Family
Relief Fund.
                       
Obama and Chapa LaVia were chief Senate and House sponsors respectively of the Illinois Citizen Soldier Initiative (House Bill 4371) which was approved unanimously in both chambers and earned strong bipartisan support.  The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Rod Blagojevich for his signature.
 
“On this Memorial Day weekend, we solemnly remember the sacrifices of those who died to protect our basic rights,” Quinn said.  “The approval of the ‘Illinois Citizen Soldier Initiative’ is an appropriate way to honor them.”
 
The first legislation of its kind in the nation, the Illinois Citizen Soldier Initiative would expand the term “military status” in the state 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 are oftentimes not 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, some financial institutions are reluctant to lend money to National Guard members and reservists, and some landlords will refuse to rent to National Guard members and reservists.
 
“Everyday citizens are leaving their civilian jobs for hazardous duty fighting terrorism,” Quinn said. “Why should these brave soldiers worry about becoming victims of discrimination when they return home?”
 
“Our bill sends a message to employers, landlords and lenders that discrimination against anyone – especially our National Guard members and reservists – will not be tolerated in Illinois,” Obama said.
 
            “Reservists are an invaluable part of today’s military and deserve all the protections afforded to those on active duty,” Chapa LaVia said.  “I’m proud that my efforts along with those of the General Assembly have made a statement that Illinois cares about our service members and veterans.”
 
            Quinn also saluted the Elks Club of Illinois for their $30,000 donation to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists.  The Fund - which helps families with rent, car payments and utility bills - has raised more than $122,398 in private donations and $155,188 from individual contributions on the Illinois state income tax return check-offs. 
 
Some 2,444 families have benefited from the Fund already.  In Illinois, there are 4,882 Illinois National Guard members and reservists on active duty.  They have a combined total of 9,300 dependents.  To find out ways to help our troops, visit www.OperationHomefront.org, which has garnered 7,068,451 hits and is one of the most informative websites regarding U.S. troops in the nation.


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