Illinois moves toward gender inclusivity as others move away

May 8, 2023, 1:56 PM

FILE - Illinois state Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, rises to speak on the floor of the Illinois Sen...

FILE - Illinois state Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, rises to speak on the floor of the Illinois Senate at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill., May 30, 2021. Illinois bills that would update existing laws to be more gender inclusive and add protections for LGBTQ marriages are ready for action by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he will sign them. The trio of state bills, passed Thursday, May 4, 2023, are meant to move the state in the “opposite direction” as those restricting transgender and LGBTQ youth, according to Simmons, the bills’ sponsor and the first and only current “out” LGBTQ lawmaker in the Illinois Senate. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, File)

(Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois bills that would update existing laws to be more gender inclusive and add protections for LGBTQ marriages are ready for action by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he will sign them.

The trio of state bills passed last week are meant to move the state in the “opposite direction” of those restricting transgender and LGBTQ youth, said Sen. Mike Simmons, the bills’ sponsor and the first and only current “out” LGBTQ lawmaker in the Illinois Senate.

Illinois is one of a surge of anti-LGBTQ legislation in mostly Republican-led states.

On the same day just a few hours away, Indiana’s governor signed a bill that will require schools to notify a parent if a student requests a name or pronoun change at school, one of several bills this legislative session targeting LGBTQ people in the state.

Illinois’ neighbors to the west, Iowa, have gone in a similar direction by restricting gender-affirming care and the bathrooms transgender students can use.

The Illinois Democratic supermajority passed the bills out of the Senate on Thursday, and the measures now await Pritzker’s signature.

“The Governor is proud to support legislation that creates a more welcoming, affirming, and inclusive Illinois,” said spokesperson Alex Gough on Friday.

“In the face of rising violence and bigotry toward the trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming community, providing support and recognition for those who identify as LGBTQ+ has never been more important,” Gough said.

One bill would replace certain pronouns with the nouns to which the pronouns refer, such as “minor” instead of “he or she,” and “person who gives birth” in place of “mother” in some existing laws concerning children in the state’s care.

Before her “no” vote, Republican Caucus Whip Sen. Jil Tracy said: “I gave birth to two boys that weighed over 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). I think I deserve more dignity that just ‘a person who gave birth.’ I’m a mother.”

The Illinois Family Institute, a Christian nonprofit, opposes all three bills.

David Curtin, the institute’s lobbyist, said the bill on pronouns is “tinkering” with terms that are legally important, and “there’s only two genders, and its male and female and him and her. So why not just stay with the program?”

Changing the language of laws “doesn’t change reality,” Curtin said.

Simmons said that the bill is primarily intended to affirm LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system, which a 2021 audit found that Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services has failed to do.

Young people in DCFS’ care have “repeatedly” relayed to ACLU Illinois lobbyist Nora Collins-Mandeville “the challenges that they have with folks identifying their family members correctly or their own identities correctly,” she said.

“Language matters,” said Collins-Mandeville, who worked with Simmons on the bill. “Contrary to some of the opposition … it actually includes more people and allows people to identify themselves.”

Another bill would require state agencies to track employees who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming to help achieve workforce diversity, and a third bill would make it easier for LGBTQ couples who resided in other states to marry in Illinois.

When the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion in June, the ruling included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested the high court should review other precedent-setting rulings, including the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The marriage bill is meant to serve as fail-safe in case that decision is reversed, Simmons said.

“What we’re trying to do is get ahead of any actions that might be taken to invalidate Obergefell or any of those other cases that would have a direct and disastrous impact on LGBTQ households in the country,” he said, referring to the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act, signed by President Joe Biden in December, enshrines the right to same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law.

For Chicago lawmaker Simmons, the three Illinois bills are personal. “There are so many other state legislatures right now that are making a sport of targeting my community,” he said.

“So many people fought so hard for me to even have the right to exist, to be able to be an out and proud, Black, LGBTQ+ state senator,” he said. But the current political climate is “dispiriting at times,” Simmons said.

“There’s several states that are going light years back on LGBTQ and civil rights.” he said. “Everything is going backwards.” ___

Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

United States News

Associated Press

UN peacekeeper killed, 8 seriously injured in northern Mali attack

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Attackers killed one U.N. peacekeeper and seriously injured eight others Friday in Mali’s northern Timbuktu region, an area where extremists continue to operate, the United Nations said. The peacekeepers were part of a security patrol that was targeted first by an improvised explosive device and then by direct fire in the […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Philly cops fired over offensive Facebook posts can pursue First Amendment claim, court rules

A dozen Philadelphia police officers who were fired or suspended for racist and violent social media posts can pursue a lawsuit against the city claiming their First Amendment rights were violated, a federal appeals court ruled. The officers’ social media accounts were included in a database, published in 2019, that catalogued thousands of bigoted or […]

12 hours ago

FILE - Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters outside after an effort to expel him from th...

Associated Press

Rep. Santos says he’s protecting family members by seeking to keep bond cosigners secret

NEW YORK (AP) — Rep. George Santos wants to protect family members by asking the courts to keep his bond cosigners secret as he fights criminal charges, his lawyer told a Long Island federal judge Friday as he asked her to reverse a magistrate judge’s decision to make the names public. Attorney Joseph Murray said […]

12 hours ago

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)...

Associated Press

Trump indictment unsealed in case involving mishandling of classified information

An indictment charging former President Donald Trump with mishandling classified documents has been unsealed.

12 hours ago

FILE - Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference, Jan. 17, 2023, in Augusta, Maine. A comm...

Associated Press

Maine expansion of abortion laws, which would be among the country’s broadest, passes committee

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A committee of the Maine Legislature signed off Friday on a proposal from Democratic Gov. Janet Mills that would give the state one of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country. Maine’s current laws allow abortions until a fetus becomes viable, which is generally considered to be about 24 weeks. […]

12 hours ago

A page from the order granting a request by former President Donald Trump's legal team to appoint a...

Associated Press

Trump case assigned to judge who faced criticism over her ruling in his favor in Mar-a-Lago search

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The documents obtained during an FBI search of his Florida estate. A person familiar with the development confirmed Friday that the case was assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, a former federal prosecutor who was nominated to the bench by Trump in 2020 and sits in Fort Pierce, about an hour’s […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

Illinois moves toward gender inclusivity as others move away