SPRINGFIELD — To better determine how the COVID-19 pandemic has harmed LGBTQIA+ communities in Illinois, State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) passed legislation out of an Illinois Senate committee Thursday that would require state agencies and hospitals to gather more specific data on age, sex, disability status, sexual orientation and gender identity when dealing with COVID-19 patients.
Simmons, the first openly gay member of the Illinois Senate, said visibility is the first step to ensuring justice in how services are delivered to these historically marginalized communities.
"For members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, who already disproportionately face challenges in getting medical care or sadly lack the support of family, COVID-19 has the potential to be even more devastating," Simmons said. "We can't protect these communities if we refuse to see them."
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Equality Illinois have called for the legislation, citing a lack of routine data collection that has prevented an accurate outlook of the coronavirus' effect on the LGBTQIA+ community in Illinois. Studies have shown members of those communities are more likely to have chronic conditions and other risk factors that can increase vulnerability to COVID-19. As one example of how the pandemic can exacerbate existing challenges, older LGBTQIA+ people already face higher rates of social isolation.
"The effects of COVID-19 will have consequences for years to come," Simmons said. "As we mobilize our health care system to respond, it is our duty to leave no community behind."
Senate Bill 2133 passed the Senate Human Rights Committee Thursday and awaits consideration before the full Senate.