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June 26, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich signs laws to further protect Illinoisans from discrimination and hate crimes
New laws create civil penalties against housing discrimination, extends protection from hate crimes

CHICAGO - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed into law two bills that will further protect residents from hate crimes, by reinforcing guarantees against discrimination in housing, and extending current legislation to shield individuals from harassment through electronic communication.
 “A hate crime is a hate crime in any way, shape, or form. Every person has the right to dignity under the law,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Today, I’m signing two bills to bolster equality and fairness in Illinois.”
House Bill 917 will make it a civil violation to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with an individual’s rights to fair housing.  Current law prohibits retaliation against a person who has filed a complaint or participated in discrimination proceedings before the Illinois Department of Human Rights or the Human Rights Commission, and prohibits interference with IDHR or the Human Rights Commission. This new law protects individuals from interference in housing transactions and protects them from discriminatory actions, including racial slurs and hate crimes. 
Sponsored by State Representative Karen Yarbrough (D-Broadview) and State Senator Carol Ronen (D- Chicago) HB 917 would make discrimination in housing transactions against minorities, the elderly, and all individuals protected under the Act a civil rights violation.  Additionally, this law would make it a civil rights violation for an employer to discharge an employee who rents housing to a minority family.  The IDHR, which administers the IHRA, received 4,000 complaints of discrimination in 2004 alone.
“This law puts a stake in the heart of racism and discrimination that Illinois families face when they want to buy and live in a home of their choice.  Families will now be able to live and work in safe neighborhoods and raise their kids without fear,” said Rep. Yarbrough.
“It’s about maintaining the dignity and inalienable rights of every Illinoisan,” said Sen. Ronen.  “Now people will think twice before making racially charged remarks against their neighbors.  I applaud the Governor for signing more civil protections for the people into law.”
In addition to IDHR, organizations that supported this legislation include the National Organization for Women (NOW), The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Community Behavior Healthcare Association, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.
“We are pleased that HB 917 will strengthen and broaden the Illinois Human Rights Act, protecting individuals from interference and intimidation in the enjoyment of their home,” said Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing Kathleen Clark.  “This is an important step for the Illinois Department of Human Rights in becoming substantially equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act.”
The second bill signed today, Senate Bill 287, which was supported by the Illinois Chiefs of Police, the Illinois State Police and the Anti-Defamation League, extends hate crime legislation and amends the criminal code to include aggravation through electronic communication.
Sponsored by State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Senator Ira I. Silverstein (D-Chicago), SB 287 makes it a hate crime to use electronic communications to harass or threaten someone because of their race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability. In addition, the bill provides that a hate crime is committed when an individual interrupts, with the intent to harass, the telephone service or electronic communication service of another person.
“This legislation confirms our continued dedication to fighting discrimination in Illinois,” said Sen. Silverstein.  “A hate crime, in any form, is absolutely unacceptable in our state.”
 “This new provision makes good on our commitment to protecting dignity and extending justice for all Illinoisans,” said Rep. Lang.  “I thank the Governor for signing this bill and strengthening this promise to our citizens.”
HB 917 becomes effective January 1, 2006. SB 287 becomes effective immediately.


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