CHICAGO – Governor Rod Blagojevich was joined by his wife Patti, lawmakers and human rights activists today as he signed Senate Bill 3186, landmark legislation that protects Illinoisans from discrimination based on sexual orientation. With his signature, Illinois became the 15th state in the nation to extend equal protection for its gay and lesbian citizens.
“We will not tolerate discrimination of any kind in Illinois. The new law I am signing today is a critical step forward in the struggle for equality,” said Governor Blagojevich. “I am proud to be able to extend the guarantee of fairness and equality in the eyes of the law to all of Illinois’ residents.”
Senator Carol Ronen and Representative Larry McKeon, both of Chicago, sponsored the amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act, which passed both houses of the General Assembly with solid majorities.
“This is a day I will always remember. We are fulfilling the legacy of the Land of Lincoln – the land of equality under the law,” said Senator Ronen.
“This is a great day for equal justice for all Illinoisans. Many people, organizations and elected officials contributed to this victory, I would like to thank them for all of their hard work. I would also like to personally thank Governor Blagojevich for his exceptional leadership and support over the past two years to ensure this bill’s passage,” said Representative McKeon.
The original Human Rights Act which passed in 1979 and became effective in 1980, guarantees freedom from unlawful discrimination on the basis of a variety of factors, including race, religion, sex, age, and a number of other characteristics, now including sexual orientation. Discrimination is prohibited in relation to employment, real estate transactions, access to financial credit, and the availability of public services and accommodations. It also provides protection from harassment in employment and higher education, and against retaliation for filing a discrimination charge.
Advocates have worked for nearly 30 years to add sexual orientation to the Illinois Human Rights Act. Legislation was introduced on a variety of occasions starting in 1976. A version of the bill passed the House on several occasions, but never won approval in the Senate before last week.
“In our Pledge of Allegiance, we describe ourselves as a nation where there is ‘liberty and justice for all,’” said the Governor. “Signing this legislation allows us to fulfill that promise to more of the citizens of this state.”
The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), which administers the Act, received approximately 4,000 charges of discrimination in the fiscal year 2004, prior to the extension of the Act. Based on a study done by the Department in 1997-98, IDHR anticipates 275 to 300 additional complaints per year with the addition of sexual orientation.
Any individual wishing to file a complaint can do so in writing, by phone, or in person with the IDHR office, generally within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination. More information, as well as the complaint forms, are available through the IDHR website at http://www.state.il.us/dhr.
IDHR has offices at the following two locations:
100 West Randolph Street, Suite 10-100 or 222 South College, Floor 1
Chicago, Illinois 60601 Springfield, Illinois 62704
(312) 814-6200 (217) 785-5100
(312) 263-1579 (TDD) (217) 785-5125 (TDD)