SPRINGFIELD – Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn joined with bill sponsors, Sen. Barack Obama and Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, as Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs House Bill 4371 (“Citizen Soldier Initiative”) into law at the homecoming ceremony of the 233rd Military Police Company.
The bill – which protects Illinois National Guard members and reservists from discrimination in hiring practices, job
promotions, housing opportunities and financial lending – is the first of its kind in the nation.
“I am happy to have worked with Sen. Barack Obama and Rep. Linda Chapa La Via on this important bill to
protect those who, at any moment, are willing to leave their civilian lives in order to preserve and protect our democracy,” Quinn said. “I salute Governor Blagojevich for signing this important bill and showing the rest of the nation how much Illinois supports its men and women in uniform.”
“This 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. “If our service men and women are overseas fighting to protect our freedom, then we should fight to protect their financial security back home.”
“I am honored to have this opportunity to give back to our citizen soldiers who have given us so much,” Obama continued. “We will never forget their bravery and sacrifice.”
House Bill 4371 expands the term “military status” in the Illinois Human Rights Act to include National Guard members and reservists, not just active duty military service members.
The need for the Citizen Soldier Initiative arose due to employers’ unwillingness to hire National Guard members
and reservists because of the possibility of their absence for up to two years. This resulted in citizen soldiers being apprehensive of disclosing their military status on job application forms for fear they might not be hired. Also, financial institutions were reluctant to lend money to National Guard members and reservists.
“Citizen soldiers, like the brave men and women of the 233rd Military Policy Company, should be honored for
their patriotic service. Discrimination against Illinois National Guard members or reservists should never be tolerated,” Quinn said.
Quinn has led the successful effort to enact the “Illinois Military Family Relief Act,” which has already provided $1.4 million in emergency financial assistance to 2,669 families of National Guard members and reservists called to active duty.
“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 our website, www.OperationHomefront.org, which has garnered more than 7.4 million hits and is one of the most informative military websites describing how to support our troops.