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Illinois LGBTQ Rights Advocates Praise Legislative Victories in 2017

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Advocates for LGBTQ rights in Illinois say while 2017 brought setbacks at the federal level, the state passed three laws aimed at improving equality.

One bill signed by the Republican governor allows transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates to correspond with their gender identity.  

Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson says the new laws approved this year show that standing up for LGBTQ rights shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“Illinois represents so much of what is great and hopeful and promising about this country, and watching Illinois double down on full equality for its LGBTQ people is just a sign and signal to that,” Johnson said. 

In Aug., Illinois became the second state to ban the so-called panic defense. It’s a legal defense that claims a defendant accused of murder or assault acted out of fear of the victim’s sexual orientation.

A third measure that takes effect Jan. 1 will require the governor to report how many LGBTQ people are appointed to boards.

Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson says the idea is to include gay and gender-nonconforming individuals in conversations that affect inequality in areas, like education.

“The Governor does have LGBTQ people on his staff,” Johnson said. “We just wanted to have this in law so that every future governor will also do so.”

Johnson says schools represent a place where LGBTQ people are still “less equal.” A 2015 study on school climate in Illinois reports a third of students have heard heard teachers or faculty make a negative remark about someone’s gender expression.

Brian Johnson was the keynote speaker of the Acorn Equality Fund event in East Peoria Sun.