Illinois Gov. George Ryan and state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, on Monday announced first-in-the-nation state legislation allowing victims of gender violence of threatswomen, gays, lesbians and the transgenderedto sue perpetrators in state civil court for damages.
"Women are ten times more likely to be victims of criminal sexual assault than are men, and between 50 and 85% of rapes are not reported to the police," said Feigenholtz. "And as we all know, men and women whose appearances or lives suggest they don't conform to traditional expectationsmen such as Matthew Shepard, who did not pretend that he wanted to date womenthese men and women are targets of gay bashing. Clearly, the laws that exist do not sufficiently deter and do not adequately respond to gender violence. Therefore, a civil remedy will substantially augment a victim's legal arsenal."
"I commend the governor for his commitment to protect every citizen, including gays and lesbians, from hate crimes," said gay state Rep. Larry McKeon, in noting that Ryan, in his State of the State address, singled out sexual orientation as a class that should be protected from hate crimes. "I encourage the governor to also advocate passage of HR 474 ( the state gay-rights bill ) ."
In Illinois, police received 6,156 criminal sexual assault reports in 1998.
"The Gender Violence Act says: if you batter your wife, your son, your daughter; if you rape your date; if you bash your gay, lesbian, or transgendered neighbor, your victim may slap you with a civil suit," said Feigenholtz, "and you will payhandsomely."
Several gay activists attended the announcement Monday, including Mary Morten, Nikita Buchhoy and Rick Garcia.