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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2005

First Lady Patti Blagojevich joins civil rights group to honor first recipient of the Women’s Advocate for Illinois Award
First Lady celebrates Chicago Rainbow Listserv’s achievements in mobilizing the gay, lesbian, and bisexual and transgender community

CHICAGO- First Lady Patti Blagojevich today joined the civil rights organization Equality Illinois to honor the Chicago Rainbow Listserv as the first recipient of the Women’s Advocate for Illinois Award and encouraged all women to become politically active in the pursuit of equal rights for all Americans.
 
“Achieving equality under the law for all citizens, including gay, lesbian, and bisexual and transgender individuals, means that we need to combine all of our voices and realize that women have a vital role to play in this effort,” said Mrs. Blagojevich. “By highlighting the accomplishments of the Chicago Rainbow Listserv we are demonstrating how women can make a contribution and have an impact when we choose to become politically active, ” said the First Lady. 
 
Equality Illinois works to secure, protect and defend the basic civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Illinois Human Rights Act, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and the Illinois Human Rights Commission (IHRC) awarded Equality Illinois the Governor’s Human Rights Award presented to individuals and organizations that help fight discrimination in the state.
 
The Women’s Advocate for Illinois Award acknowledges the political contributions of women and seeks to encourage all women to become politically engaged, specifically in protecting the civil rights of gay, lesbian, and bisexual and transgender persons.
 
“Mrs. Blagojevich has a long history of supporting the gay community, is well-respected in our community and we feel honored to have her as a guest speaker at our first Women’s Advocate for Illinois Award event. The First Lady’s participation demonstrates that this Administration believes that all Illinoisans, including gay, bi-sexual, lesbian and transgender, are valued citizens and should be treated fairly and equitably under the law,” said Jeremy H. Gottschalk, an organizer of the Awards night.
 
The first recipient of the Women’s Advocate for Illinois Award is the Chicago Rainbow Listserv, which connects and politically mobilizes members of the GLBT community in Chicago through the sharing of information and resources.
 
“As a newcomer to the Chicago area, Chicago Rainbow Listserv proved to be an amazing resource for getting involved in the community. The organization is led by an incredible group of women who link other women together not only socially, but also in a political capacity. They provide a wonderful service to the Chicago community and by honoring them tonight we hope to ignite a spark for other women to become involved in politics in a meaningful way,” said Christin Baker an organizer of the Awards night.
 
Equality Illinois achieved a benchmark victory with passage in the Illinois Senate and House of the non-discrimination bill (SB 3186) in January 2005, which was signed into law by Governor Blagojevich on January 21. This made Illinois one of fifteen states that prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. 
 
Equality Illinois had spearheaded passage of a statewide non-discrimination bill in the Illinois House of Representatives soon after its formation in 1992. During the next decade, the organization registered thousands of Illinoisans, lobbied legislators to support the nondiscrimination bill and developed a strong network of human rights supporters throughout the state. Over the years, Equality Illinois has worked with local communities throughout the state to pass local non-discrimination ordinances, including Cook County and such cities as Springfield, Decatur, Bloomington, Normal and Peoria. Equality Illinois has also worked with numerous corporations in establishing non-discrimination policies, as well as domestic partnership benefits for their employees.
 
Since taking office, the Governor has taken strong measures to protect individuals and families against discrimination in Illinois, by:
 
·        Signing into law House Bill 917, which makes it a civil violation to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with an individual’s right to fair housing, including discriminatory actions such as racial slurs and hate crimes.  The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2006. 
 
·        Signing into law Senate Bill 287, which makes it a hate crime to harass or threaten an individual through telephones, faxes or emails, including intentionally interrupting an individual’s telephone service.  The law went into effect upon signing.
 
Signing into law Senate Bill 3186, which extends protections under the Illinois Human Rights Act to protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation.  Illinois is the 15th state in the nation to extend equal protection for its gay and lesbian residents.  The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2006.


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