Phil Reese

Take Action: Illinois rightwingers want to gut LGBT protections

Filed By Phil Reese | March 01, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Politics
Tags: employment non-discrimination, ENDA, Illinois, right wing fundies, right wing organization

In 2005, a broad coalition of labor, LGBT, and progressive activists from across the state of Illinois joined together to form "The 85% Coalition" to pressure the legislature to pass an inclusive amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act [IHRA] to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Illinois' law has been a model for the nation--a sweeping and successfully implemented gender and sexuality-inclusive employment non-discrimination law.

This fall, in fact, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan testified at the federal hearings on ENDA on Capitol Hill, explaining before our law-makers that the law has been a major benefit for Illinois businesses and workers.

Charges filed with IDHR [Illinois Department of Human Rights] also show that religious institutions have not been impacted by the 2006 Amendments to IHRA. Since the effective date of the 2006 Amendments, only a handful of charges based on sexual orientation have been filed against religious institutions. In FY2009 and so far in FY2010, not a single charge based upon sexual orientation was filed against a religious institution.

Most importantly, a significant number of religious institutions were in support of the 2006 Amendments to IHDA. At the time of the passage of the 2006 Amendments, approximately 87 religious institution, organizations and leaders pledged their public support for the amendments.

However, the far right in Illinois has been irked by this LGBT victory for years, and have been looking at ways to send us back to the closet. They're getting their chance with Senate Bill 3447 - a bill initially brought by anti-gay GOP gubernatorial candidate, Bill Brady; now championed by another homophobe, John Jones. This is part of a nation-wide strategy to reverse our rights.

According to the ACLU of Illinois website:

Promoting Religious Discrimination? Bad Idea.

There are two bills being considered in the Illinois General Assembly that threaten important legal protection against discrimination based on religion and sexual orienation [sic].

Help protect the people of Illinois from discrimination. Urge your legislators to oppose bills that expand discrimination based on religion.

Senate Bill 3447, which is being sponsored by Sen. John Jones, seeks to amend the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) and expand the ability of religious institutions to practice employment discrimination. Read the bill.

*Religious Institutions Already Get to Discriminate - The IHRA and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution already provide ample accommodation of the religious beliefs and practices of religious institutions. When hiring employees whose duties include the formation and transmission of doctrice (for example: ministers), religious institutions can discriminate based on gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. They can also discriminate against any type of employee, secular or religious, based on their religion. For example, the IHRA allows a church to require its secretary to be a member of the church.

  • Sexual Orientation Discrimination - Under SB 3477, religious institutions would be able to discriminate against all employees based on sexual orientation, regardless of whether they are in religious or secular positions. That means religious organizations could advertise "straight men only" for janitor positions, or "no lesbians need apply" for accountants.
  • Not Just Religious Institutions - Even worse than the fact that this bill would expand types of discrimination, it also expands WHO is allowed discriminate. SB 3477 allows any association, society, and non-profit institution or organization "operated in conjunction with" a religious institution to practice employment discrimination. This vague and broad language would allow discriminatory secular institutions with no prior connection to a church to enter into a sham alignment with a church in order to legalize their discrimination.

Take action! Tell your Senator to oppose SB 3477, which would prevent many qualified workers from even being considered for a job.

LGBT Change sent out the following:

Senate to Consider Bill that allows Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation

LGBT Change has recently learned of a change of Chief Sponsorship on a proposed bill, titled SB3447, that would amend the Human Rights Act in order to allow for increased discrimination, and specifically for reasons such as an individual's religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

SB3447, if passed, would make it legal for secular non-profit institutions and organizations claiming an affiliation with a religious institution or society the legal right to discriminate against its employees based on religious belief and sexual orientation. The bill was originally sponsored by Sen. Bill Brady, but as of Thursday February 25, 2010 it has now been altered to show Sen. John O. Jones as Chief Sponsor, which gives the bill a higher likelihood of being called for a vote as early as next week. We are urging members of the community to immediately contact the Senate Judiciary Committee or your Senator to express opposition to this egregiously discriminatory bill.

SB3447 if passed would give religious institutions the legal right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation for positions that are non-religious, such as a janitor or secretary. Federal law and the Illinois Human Rights Act already allows for discrimination if the position involves transmission or formation of religious doctrine. It would also dramatically expand which organizations that are allowed to practice discrimination in hiring practices. There is broad language that would allow secular non-profit institutions who work in conjunction with a religious institution to discriminate in hiring practices for reasons based on sexual orientation or religious beliefs.

SB3447 would swing the balance of the Human Rights Act by dramatically expanding the ability for targeted discrimination in the State of Illinois. Equality Illinois, the ACLU, LGBT Change and other social justice organizations are calling for the community to express their opposition by contacting their Senator and Representative to demand they vote NO on SB3447. Please visit: to fill out a petition to be sent to your State Senator and Representative.

After the press release from LGBT Change, and a massive amount of activity from bloggers and social media leaders from around the United States, Equality Illinois sent out the following e-blast:

Illinois' non-discrimination law is in danger and we need your help now!

The State Senate is considering a bill (SB3447) to roll back some protections of the Illinois Human Rights Act, which currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill would carve out exceptions to the Act, allowing certain employers and tax-exempt organizations to discriminate against Illinoisans on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.

The bill was authored by State Senator Bill Brady, Republican gubernatorial hopeful, though the chief sponsorship has since changed to State Sen. John O. Jones.

The bill has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee and a hearing on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday, March 2.

Here's what you can do NOW to save Illinois Human Rights Act:

Learn more about the proposed bill and then

  1. Contact a State Senator on the Judiciary Committee, especially if this is your State Senator.
  2. Help Equality Illinois launch a forceful defense of the Human Rights Act in Springfield, by donating to our advocacy efforts today. We need to have a full advocacy team in Springfield to derail these angry, ill-willed attacks. We cannot do this work without your help.

Thank you for your help!

No matter where you live, you must be concerned about the threat of destroying this law. If the far right is successful in finding more ways in Illinois to eliminate jobs for LGBT people simply because of who they are, they will employ this same strategy elsewhere.

Stay vigilant, or else we could see our successes collapse before we even have time to react.

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Rick Sours | March 1, 2010 6:06 PM

Society seems to feel that they accept LBGT individuals as long as we stay in our place and our actions conform to society's views of their stereotype of LGBT behavior. They have a real difficult time accepting LBGT individuals who do not conform to their ideas of us or expect to be treated as equals with full equal rights. One aspect of this is that these same individuals who are attempting to discriminate against LGBT individuals will very quickly express in public statements like: they understand LBGT
individuals, have no problem with us, or have friends who are LBGT. In addition, there are individuals who will say their actions are not discriminatory and justified because they belong to a group that is officially classified as a minority.

I don't agree. This, along with anti-marriage amendments, opposition to hate-crime laws and opposition to anti-bullying policies is part of the religious right's broader strategy to force us back into the closet. These people will stop at NOTHING to accomplish their goal, including reintroduction of sodomy laws with the death penalty. The religious right is to contemporary America what fascism was to Europe in the 1930s.

Rick Sours | March 2, 2010 7:07 AM

Several years ago there was an amendment on the ballot in the state of Arizona which was called the Marriage Amendment. The "other side" said it was simply an amendment to definite marriage as being between a man and a woman. It was not necessary since according to the state constitution only marriage between and man and a woman was legal.

The real focus of this amendment was its assault on all domestic partner benefits in the state, both heterosexual as well as homosexual. This amendment was not passed because the anti-amendment side emphasized the impact this would have on heterosexuals who are domestic partners.

These bills are trying to establish a special right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. This should be easy enough to defeat if people point this out and then ask which other groups they will want to have a special right to discriminate against after this law is passed. Will they want to discriminate against other religions or denominations? Against people of color?

The "special rights" meme works for them when they oppose civil equality even when it's not true. We need to use the same rhetoric, especially because, in this case, it really is the truth!