These 2 Important LGBTQ Protection Bills Are Now On Rauner's Desk

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 6, 2017 5:00PM

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Amidst a flurry of legislative activity and the headline news that lawmakers (again) failed to pass a budget, some important bills advanced ahead of the close of spring legislature session, but with less media fanfare than deserved. Among those that passed both chambers and are now on Rauner's desk are two important LGBTQ-focused bills. One bill would modernize the way transgender people in Illinois can correct birth certificates; another would banish the loathsome "gay panic" defense in murder trials.

The LGBTQ bill with perhaps the most legislative focus of the year was the transgender birth -certificate modernization bill, House Bill 1785. Proponents say the current law is out of date, since it requires that a transgender person must undergo surgery before they can correct their birth certificate. Fourteen other states, along with Washington D.C., have statutes that permit transgender people to amend their certificates without surgery.

"No one should face the dilemma of being denied a birth certificate that conforms with their gender simply because they are unable—or cannot afford—to undergo surgery that the medical community agrees is not necessary for everyone who transitions," John Knight, Director of the ACLU of Illinois’ LGBT and HIV Project, said when the bill passed the state Senate. "People who are transgender and intersex should make their own medical decisions with the guidance of medical health professionals—not politicians."

Advocacy group Equality Illinois, which helped push the legislation, said they get a substantial amount of distressed feedback from transgendered people over the current, invasive statute. "The need for this legislation was evident from the heartbreaking calls and e-mails that we have received over the years from frustrated transgender Illinoisans who say the outdated Illinois law prevents them from obtaining an accurate birth certificate," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois.

Another important LGBTQ-related legislation would ban the so-called "gay panic" and "trans panic" defense in the state. The murder-defense tactic isn't common in Illinois, but it has been used successfully, in the infamous 2009 case in which a man stabbed and slashed his gay neighbor 61 times but was acquitted. As Slate points out, the defense strategy—which the American Bar Association wants banned—has also been employed by Americans traveling overseas. Under the ban, defendants could not use a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity in efforts to reduce a murder charge. Only California has a similar law on the books thus far.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has signaled that he intends to sign the bill banning the "panic," but he has not confirmed whether or not he'll sign the transgender bill. A Rauner spokesperson told Chicagoist that the bills are under review.

This post has been updated.