A bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation has been introduced in the Illinois Senate by State Sen. Carol Ronen. D-Chicago. Activists are optimistic that the bill will pass the Illinois legislature this year.
'With the Illinois Senate now controlled by Democrats, this is the best opportunity we have had to pass this civil-rights legislation,' said Ronen.
Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Senate President Emil Jones are among those joining Ronen in sponsoring the legislation. An identical bill (HB101) has been introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives by State Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago. While the House passed similar legislation in 1993 and 1999, former Senate President Pate Philip opposed the legislation and held up its passage. Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, has been a strong supporter of the legislation for more than 20 years.
'We are ecstatic with Senator Ronen as the sponsor,' said Equality Illinois political director Rick Garcia. 'As a member of the House of Representatives, Carol played a pivotal role in the passage of a similar bill in that chamber in 1993 and 1999.'
The bill adds the category sexual orientation to the Illinois Human Rights Act which bans discrimination in housing, employment, credit transactions and public accommodations. Twelve Illinois cities (Bloomington, Champaign, Chicago, Decatur, DeKalb, Evanston, LaGrange, Naperville, Normal, Oak Park, Springfield and Urbana) and one county (Cook) include sexual orientation in local civil-rights code.
Supporters of the bill suggest that it is needed because discrimination against gays and lesbians is legal in Illinois and that such discrimination is unfair and unjust. Opponents suggest that the bill promotes homosexuality, violates religious institutions' ability to preach against homosexuality, that homosexuals spread disease and are a threat to children.
The bill is supported by a wide range of business, religious, civil rights and civic organizations and leaders among them LaSalle Bank, Harris Bank, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, Chicago Board of Rabbis, National Coalition of American Nuns, Advocate Health Centers, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Rockford Mayor Doug Scott, Springfield Mayor Karen Hasara and all of Illinois' constitutional officers.
'Never have we had stronger support for this legislation in Illinois,' said an optimistic Garcia. 'It's no longer a matter of if it will pass, it's simply a matter of when.'
Roe v. Wade Anniversary
The Chicago National Organization for Women (NOW) and allied groups host a rally to support Roe v. Wade on its 30th anniversary, Wed., Jan. 22, noon in front of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn. This year's theme is 'Pro Child, Pro Family, Pro Choice'—none of which George W. Bush is, NOW said.
Planned Parenthood hosts a Roe v. Wade benefit, also Jan. 22, with honors to Prudence Beidler and Richard Phelen. Call (312) 592-6800.
Tunney Sworn In
With dozens of his supporters, family and friends looking on, openly gay Chicago businessman Tom Tunney made history Jan. 16 when he was sworn in as the city's first openly gay alderman. He had been appointed by Mayor Richard Daley in December to complete the term of retiring Ald. Bernie Hansen in the North Side 44th Ward. On Jan. 16, the City Council voted in favor of the appointment, 42-0.
Ald. Mary Ann Smith was absent and Tunney could not vote for himself. The aldermen who were present but did not vote, for various reasons including coming late to the Council meeting, were: Tillman, Frias, Troutman, O'Connor, Doherty and Allen, according to the City Clerk's Office.
Before the vote, aldermen Ed Burke, Vilma Colom, Joe Moore and others spoke in Tunney's favor. As Tunney was being congratulated, the Mayor sounded his gavel. In a humorous moment, Tunney thought he was to come up front to speak—and the Mayor joked 'Not yet,' getting laughs from the crowd. Tunney received a standing ovation from the audience, which included openly gay state Rep. Larry McKeon.
In his short speech, Tunney thanked Hansen and the other City Council members, and said he will represent all parts of the 44th Ward, not just the GLBT community.
The city's aldermanic elections are Feb. 25. One other gay man, Rick Ingram, is among Tunney's opponents.
44th Ward Debate
Chicago Professional networking Association will host 44th Ward aldermanic debate on LGBT issues Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Candidates Tom Tunney, Rick Ingram and Dean Maragos have confirmed to attend this free event. However, space is limited. They recommend you arrive early (prior to 6:30 p.m.) if you wish to get a seat. The LGBT Forum is from 7-9 p.m. at Bailiwick Theatre, 1229 W. Belmont.
Steamworks is the corporate sponsor to underwrite the costs of the event. Other LGBT organizations (Horizons, LCCP, Equality Illinois, Chicago Gay & Lesbian Chamber, Bailiwick Theatre and Stonewall Democrats) have also agreed to co-sponsor the event.
This forum will address questions such as: 'What will Boystown look like in five years if condo development continues to outpace the needs of the Neighborhood?' and 'Will my favorite bar be closed because of condo initiated referendums?'
Braun Mulls Prez.
Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun has said she will not seek her old post in the next senate elections, but now she is mulling a run for U.S. president. While some doubt her ability to raise the needed funds, the Democratic Party is saying this is a way to help the party's image with Blacks—and to diffuse the campaign of Al Sharpton.
AIDS Budget Calls
AIDS Foundation of Chicago is urging people to contact U.S. Senators Peter Fitzgerald and Dick Durbin and your House Representative to press for increased AIDS funding. Call 1-800-648-3516 and ask to be transferred to their offices. See www.vote-smart.org/index.phtml.