You did it! Springfield committee reverses decision.

From Equality Illinois:

"Springfield’s Joint Labor and Management Health Care Committee met this morning and unanimously decided to reverse its earlier ruling and allow spousal health insurance benefits for city employees in a civil union.

Equality Illinois commends the Springfield LGBT community and our allies for speaking out in favor of equal treatment for each and every couple. In the end, nearly 150 Springfield residents signed the petition urging the mayor and the Joint Labor and Management Health Care Committee to do the right thing and not discriminate against couples in a civil union. Because of the community’s support, along with the leadership of Mayor Houston and Alderman Cory Jobe, the committee made the right decision in the end to reaffirm Illinois’ civil union law that explicitly states that all benefits available to couples in a marriage must be available to couples in a civil union.

We will continue to fight for equality on every level and could not do it without YOU. Thank you!

Very truly yours,
Bernard Cherkasov
Chief Executive Officer”

[Chicago] Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal back out of proposed transgender ordinance

Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and other LGBT advocacy organizations are dropping support for a police transgender protections ordinance introduced in City Council last month due to compromises made to the language, which they say, damaged the effectiveness of the policy.

In its current form, the ordinance provisions would be overseen by existing City Council committees. Specifically, police would have to report to the Human Relations and Public Relations committees, instead of a new, transgender issues committee or commission. Several iterations of the bill were drafted before it was introduced by Moreno, who told Chicago Phoenix at the time of introduction, that the bill introduced was “strong” and was a “good compromise” with police.

“The ordinance in its current form is not strong enough because key provisions like training and enforcement that we think are important are missing,” Clark said. “Passing something weaker and then strengthening it later is not always the best way to go. You might not be there later.”

Read the full article here.

EQIL's Incredible 2012 Gala is February 11!

From Equality Illinois:

“PLEASE JOIN US: Equality Illinois’ 2012 Gala: Justice for All will take place on Saturday, February 11. Come see and be seen at one of the most elegant and fun LGBT events of the year. With over 1,000 guests in attendance, including elected officials, candidates, and other VIPs, the Gala is one of the most impactful ways to support full equality for LGBT people. Learn more and purchase your tickets today. Simply click below or call 773-477-7173We look forward to celebrating with you at the Gala!”

Sen. Koehler’s daughter Maggie with one of the valuable pens used to sign the marriage equality bill in Illinois! #eqil (at Sidetrack)

Is Voter Registration on YOUR Holiday List?

From Equality Illinois:

"Whether you are making a list and checking it twice or thinking of a New Year’s resolution, please make sure to include registering to vote and voting on your list. You need to (re-)register to vote if you have moved, changed your name or have turned 18! Illinois’ primary election will be held on March 20, 2012, and the deadline to register for that election is February 21, 2012.

The elections held on Tuesday, March 20, will be extremely important and Equality Illinois is doing everything possible to make sure you are ready. In fact, we have made it easy:

1. Verify that you are registered to vote!
  *Confirm that your voter registration is current - http://tinyurl.com/6jk3lfc

2. Register to vote!
  *Print the State of Illinois Voter Registration Card - http://tinyurl.com/5sgev2w
  *Then mail it to your local election authority - http://tinyurl.com/ILlocalelectionauthority

You can also fill out a voter registration form at a our office (3318 N. Halsted Street - Chicago), and we will make sure that it gets to the proper election authority. If you would like additional information regarding voter registration, please do not hesitate to contact me at cstaerk@eqil.org, call 773-477-7173 or stop by the Equality Illinois office.

Our voter registration and outreach services are available without regard to the voter’s political preference. Information or other assistance regarding registering or voting, including any services offered, shall not be withheld or refused on the basis of support for or opposition to particular candidates or a political party.

Thank you!

Caroline Staerk
Field Director”

Last Chance to Make Your 2011 Tax-Deductible Contribution!

I would like to point out the following links DON’T just lead to donation pages - they have various amounts of options you can use to help.

From Equality Illinois:

"As you know, this year has indeed been a year of tremendous successes for LGBT people in the state, including Illinois becoming just the sixth state to legalize civil unions. Because of your generous support of LGBT equality work and the efforts of supporters like you, we have taken a significant step toward full equality for every family in Illinois! 

There is so much more to do to achieve full equality for LGBT Illinoisans. We have an incredible about of work to do in 2012. If you have not yet done so, please make an additional tax-deductible, end-of-year contribution to help us move forward with our statewide educational work next year. 

My thoughts keep returning to the individuals and families for whom we fight every day. I think of the impact that our LGBT-rights progress has on them and our larger community. I am thankful for the greater protections and safeguards that are available in Illinois. Yet, there is still so much work to be done.  

That is why I ask you to stand with us as we move forward in our battle for equal protections under the law. Will you, please, make an additional tax-deductible, end-of-year contribution to help us advance our aggressive statewide LGBT-rights agenda?

LGBT Illinoisans are counting on your support, and we cannot succeed in achieving full equality without you. 

Thank you again for your support.

Let’s keep moving forward!

Bernard Cherkasov
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Remember that your generous end-of-the-year donation to Equality Illinois Education Project, a 501(c)(3) organization, is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. “

Call Cardinal George

From Equality Illinois:

"Chicago’s Cardinal George crossed a line this week when he made an outrageous statement in reference to a local priest’s concern about the possible new pride parade’s route. "You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism," George said. The comments came during an interview with Fox Chicago. [Full story: http://tinyurl.com/6rhzpnk]

For the Cardinal to equate the LGBT movement to a hate group that used violence and terror against racial, religious and ethnic groups, is beyond words and comprehension. His statement runs completely contrary to the spirit of the holiday season and all norms of decency and he should apologize. The Cardinal is not only out line, he is out of touch with his OWN community as a majority of Catholics support LGBT equality.  

Please call the Cardinal’s office (312-534-8230) and demand an apology for this offensive and hurtful statement.

Thank you for taking action on this very important issue! 

Very truly yours,

Bernard Cherkasov
Chief Executive Officer”

White House Announces Global LGBT Rights Strategy

From Equality Illinois:

"Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced new and unprecedented steps in American foreign policy and the global pursuit of LGBT equality. The historic declaration highlighted the need for all nations to address LGBT human rights violations and vowed that the United States would use every tool of diplomacy, including foreign aid, in this effort.

Specific measures of the new policy were outlined in a presidential memorandum issued to executive departments and agencies and affirmed in a groundbreaking address by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the United Nations to mark international Human Rights Day. The measures include a requirement that American diplomats abroad will record LGBT human rights violations and abuses to be included in the State Department’s annual human rights report; a directive to all departments and agencies acting abroad to combat LGBT criminalization; a $3 million global equality fund aimed at helping civil groups abroad promote, protect and ensure LGBT rights; and a commitment that America will work to protect LGBT refugees and those who seek asylum. An emergency support program for allies and defenders of LGBT human rights has also been created through a newly founded task force in Washington, D.C.  Watch Secretary Clinton’s remarks and learn more about the presidential memorandum here.  

This is a major step forward for LGBT rights abroad and emphasizes the work that has yet to be done at home. LGBT people across this nation still do not share full equality in marriage, employment, adoption, safe schools, spousal benefits and so much more. Although improvements such as the recently-enacted civil union law in Illinois and our state’s non-discrimination policies have come with time, there remains an ever-pressing need for comprehensive action for LGBT equality. 

We are grateful that the Obama Administration has taken these transformative steps on the matter of global LGBT equality.  We look forward to the Administration’s next steps to secure full LGBT equality at home. 

Let’s keep moving forward!

Very truly yours,
Bernard Cherkasov
Chief Executive Officer”

BREAKING: Marriage Equality Bill introduced in Illinois

From Equality Illinois:

"Moments ago, Representatives Greg Harris, Deb Mell, and Kelly Cassidy filed a marriage equality bill in Illinois General Assembly.

We commend these leaders for taking yet another step towards full equality for lesbian and gay families in Illinois, and we are grateful to them for their leadership.  This is just the beginning: the road to marriage equality is sure to be long, but it is one that we must travel together.

In following experiences of thousands of couples in civil unions over the past year, we confirmed what we always suspected to be true: that creating a separate institution to provide substantially the same rights did not add up to full equality under the law.  A pharmacist who denied prescription pick-up to the patient’s civil union partner didn’t think it’s the same thing as marriage.  A coroner who refused to issue a death certificate to civil union partner survivor did not think that civil unions are the same as marriage.  Tax preparers, estate planners, employers and employees do not think that civil unions are the same as marriage.  Separate is not equal.  And we at Equality Illinois will not rest until gay and lesbian couples in every corner of the state - who are equal in love - are also equal in marriage.

Just yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that California’s denial of marriage in favor of domestic partnerships for same sex couples violated the U.S. Constitution. 

In days, weeks, and months to come, we will share with you our strategy for moving forward toward marriage equality.  Please join us in this urgent and important work.  We cannot succeed without you.

Very truly yours,

Bernard Cherkasov
Chief Executive Officer”

GETTING CLOSE – Washington State Appears Poised for Marriage Equality

From Equality Illinois:

"A proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state made it out of a final committee and faces its last major obstacle, a crucial vote Wednesday in the state Senate, where it has narrow support. The bill is expected to pass. Recent polls in Washington have show significant increases in support for marriage equality.

If passed by the Senate, the measure moves to the House, which has enough votes to pass the bill by a more comfortable margin. Also, Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire supports the measure and said she will sign it into law.

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007 and an “everything but marriage” expansion of the domestic partnership law since 2009. Stay tuned to your inbox and EQIL’s Facebook page and Twitter feed for the latest news on marriage equality advancements around the country.”

NEW RULE – HUD Makes Housing Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals Illegal

From Equality Illinois:

On January 28 at the 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that a historic new rule will be announced strengthening housing discrimination protections for transgender people. The regulations will be published next week, and go into effect 30 days from then.

The new rule makes several urgently needed changes to current federal housing and housing-related programs including: prohibiting owners and operators of federally-funded or federally-insured housing, as well as lenders offering federally-insured mortgages from discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation;and clarifying the definition of “family” to ensure that LGBT families are not excluded from HUD programs.

More informaton is available on the website of the National Center for Transgender Equality. EQIL will, of course, keep you updated on the progress of this and other important new rules and directives as information becomes available.”

April 2012 EQIL Insider Scoop

Some Illinois LGBT news from Equality Illinois:

    Current Illinois law requires that school districts have bullying prevention policies on the books but fails to provide the guidance necessary to ensure that these policies and their implementation successfully combat bullying. House Bill 5290 modifies current law by integrating the specific recommendations of the Illinois School Bullying Prevention Task Force to more effectively prevent and address bullying and school violence. The bill ensures that all schools include these important components to optimize bullying prevention at no cost to the schools.  Thanks to the work of Representative Kelly Cassidy and broad Prevent School Violence Coalition, which includes groups like Equality Illinois, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, ACLU of Illinois, among others, bill passed the House and is now going to State Senate.
    EQIL recently unveiled two new initiatives that emphasize the growing embrace of full equality for LGBT individuals by leaders of religious institutions.

    The first, Marriage Equality Faith Petition, will demonstrate that there are many in the faith community who support full LGBT equality, including the right to marry. We are asking clergy and lay leaders from across the state to sign the petition to openly support the newly proposed “Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” that will grant equal marriage rights. The petition can be found a at http://tinyurl.com/SupportILMarriageFaithPetition.

    EQIL is also publishing “Equality in Your Faith Community: A Guide to LGBT-Inclusive Religious Practices” and a related brochure. In the guide, which can be found at http://www.eqil.org/faithandfreedom.html, faith institutions and organizations across the state share how they include and celebrate the LGBT community in their everyday practices and worship.  

    These two new initiatives build on EQIL’s ongoing, nationally-recognized Faith & Freedom Initiative, which aims to identify welcoming congregations, to build stronger relationships with communities of faith who share our interest in issues of justice and fairness, and to emphasize the positive relationship between religion and equality for all versus the persistent misconception that the majority of faith communities oppose equality for LGBT people.

    Those efforts include a Faith Resource Guide, with references to numerous articles, books, movies and websites that help reconcile faith and sexuality, and a listing of leaders who perform civil union ceremonies. Both can also be found at http://www.eqil.org/faithandfreedom.html.

    We are particularly grateful to EQIL’s multi-denominational Religious Outreach Committee for their work and dedication. EQIL will keep you updated on the progress of our Faith & Freedom Initiative.  
    EQIL applauds a new analysis just released that shows that marriage equality will strengthen thousands of Illinois families and boost the state economy at no cost to taxpayers. The report was prepared by the Williams Institute, a leading research arm of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, as Illinois lawmakers consider the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would guarantee marriage equality under state law.

    This report affirms that there are no reasons in logic or law why thousands of Illinois couples and their children should be deprived of the same legal protections and social and community support that other families enjoy. EQIL staffers along with our bipartisan lobbying team will use the Williams Institute report as they discuss the bill with state lawmakers and the Quinn administration. When the state is struggling to raise every dollar possible, it is good to point to marriage equality as something that costs taxpayers nothing, serves to improve the state’s business environment and brings in millions of dollars in revenue.

    The analysis found that extending marriage to same-sex couples will potentially benefit more than 23,000 same-sex couples in Illinois, including an estimated 3,831 couples raising more than 7,662 children. During the first six months of implementation of the Illinois civil union law, June 1 – Nov. 30, 2011, Equality Illinois found that 3,729 couples applied for civil union licenses throughout the state.

    The Williams Institute research also found that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have positive effects on the Illinois economy and tax revenues because weddings by resident Illinois couples will generate between $39 million and $72 million for the state economy, creating $4.5 million to $8 million in new sales and lodging tax revenues over three years.

    The complete Williams Institute analysis can be found at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/.
    Join us for EQIL’s annual Lobby Day at the Illinois State House on Wednesday, April 25 as we lobby our legislators for passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act and other crucial issues of LGBT equality.

    RSVP today. There is no cost for you to participate in Lobby Day.  There will be a pre-lobby and post-lobby reception with elected officials.

    Buses will depart from 1) Chicago, 2) Oak Park, 3)  Bolingbrook, 4) Carbdonale, and 5) Belleville. Click here for more details or call EQIL at 773-477-7173.

    Equality supporters from the entire state are encouraged to join us in Springfield!
    Tickets are going fast for EQIL’s Spring Women’s Social, taking place Saturday, April 28 from 4 to 7pm at Mignonette (1747 W. Belmont in Chicago). Tickets include complimentary open bar, food, and great giveaways and are just $50!

    WHAT: Spring Women’s Social
    WHEN: Saturday, April 28 (4 to 7pm)
    WHERE: Mignonette (1747 W. Belmont in Chicago)
    TICKETS: Click here!

    Sponsors: Mignonette, Sidetrack, Windy City Dinner Fairy

    Host Committee (in formation): Tina Abramovitch, Nicole Bashor,  Lauren Carter, Yvette Chavez, Olivia Connors, Dalila Fridi, Leslie Gutierrez,  Denise Johnson, Christina Kahrl, Lynn Katsulis, Kpoene Kofi-Bruce, Liz Lassner, Ginger Lee, Lisa Martinez, Anne Nicklin, Linda Pauel, Editha Paras, Erica Quinn, Carol Rogers, Cathy Sikora,  Jackie Weinberg, Laurie Weisberg

    Media Sponsors: BestGayChicago.com, ChicagoPride.com, GRAB Magazine, The L Stop, MTMChicago.com

    Funds raised at this event benefit Equality Illinois Education Project, a 501(c)(3) organization, and are tax deductible as allowed by law, less the fair market value of $25.00 per ticket purchased.

    We look forward to seeing you at EQIL’s Spring Women’s Social! 
    APRIL 2012 
    20 APR – Powder Room Ladies’ Night Social (8 to 10pm @ Parlour)
    25 APR – Lobby Day (12:30pm reception w/ Comptroller Judy Baar Topenka) RSVP HERE
    28 APR – Spring Women’s Social (4 to 7pm @ Mignonette) TICKETS HERE

    MAY 2012
    4 MAY – First Friday (6pm @ Sidetrack)
    9 MAY – Spring Wine Tasting (6 to 9pm @ Sidetrack)
    18 MAY – Powder Room Ladies’ Night Social (8 to 10pm @ Parlour)
    Equality Illinois’ political action committee, EQUALITY ILLINOIS PAC is happy to announce that nearly 90 percent of the candidates endorsed by the PAC won nomination in March 20th Illinois primary election, signifying that issues and candidates important to the LGBT community are also part of the political mainstream.  Being supportive of LGBT issues and appealing to LGBT voters is a positive for the overwhelming majority of the electorate. This should be a message for the general election in November that running against equal rights is a losing proposition.

    Many of the winning candidates included the EQIL PAC endorsement as an integral part of their campaign, including it in ads, literature and personal appearances. As they made their decisions, voters throughout Illinois looked for that imprimatur as a way to ensure that they were supporting a candidate who favors equality regarding the LGBT community.  EQIL PAC will again look at the matchups in the fall and make our choices known so voters can make an informed decision about which candidate supports equality. Equality Illinois PAC is a registered political action committee and an affiliate of Equality Illinois, a 501(c)(4) organization.
    EQIL was pleased to be invited to once again co-present the Chicago LGBT Wedding Expo on Sunday, March 25. Our friends who produce the event, RainbowWeddingNetwork.com, did a fantastic job putting this successful event together. Over 500 attendees turned out to the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza to browse and chat with over 30 LGBT-friendly wedding vendors from across the region. The fun event culminated with the announcement of great giveaways to some of the attendees! EQIL looks forward to partnering with RainbowWeddingNetwork.com on next year’s Chicago LGBT Wedding Expo!  
    EQIL celebrated the passage of legislation out of committee that would add gender identity, military status, and immigration status to the state’s hate crimes statute.

    This bill is crucial because it empowers local law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. While Equality Illinois’ powerhouse bipartisan advocacy team in Springfield heavily rallied around this bill, Rep. Kelly Cassidy deserves all the credit for making a clear case to her colleagues in the legislature that this legislation is crucial. The task for us as advocates now is to build broad bipartisan support to pass it through the full House and Senate.

    EQIL also worked closely with Rep. Cassidy to pass House Bill 4724 out of the House Judiciary Civil Law Committee to establish the Illinois Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which would mirror the federal FMLA law and allow partners in a civil union to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid time off from work to care for sick loved ones.