SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ attorney general is joining a coalition of states challenging legal actions they contend would weaken protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, while at the same time reminding Illinois public officials to enforce existing non-discrimination policies.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul said there have been safety concerns about potential acts of anti-LGBT violence and harassment.
Raoul, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Human Rights Director Jim Bennett said in a letter Thursday to public officials in the state that some officials have been “pressured to deny LGBTQ+ events due to fears of civil disturbance or public safety concerns.”
The letter said public officials must ensure those groups are not penalized or excluded from public spaces.
Specifically, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited for public spaces or accommodations and there cannot be additional fees imposed because of the gender identity or sexual orientation of organizers or audience.
Raoul said his office can file civil hate crimes lawsuits against those who harass, intimidate or commit crimes based on protected characteristics such as sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I understand many public officials are concerned about preserving public safety within parks, libraries and schools, so it is important they understand LGBTQ+ protections with the Illinois Human Rights Act,” Raoul said. “Discrimination has no place in our society and violence toward those advocating for LGBTQ+ equality should not be the answer.”
Pritzker said members of the LGBT community have been under threat because of targeted harassment.
“Here in Illinois we welcome everyone — regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, documentation status and economic bracket. That’s why, alongside Attorney General Kwame Raoul and ([Illinois Department of Human Rights) Director Jim Bennett, I sent a letter to all of our state’s local public officials to remind them that Illinois has clear non-discrimination policies to protect and safeguard LGBTQ+ Illinoisans in public spaces. Let me be clear: Transphobic and homophobic rhetoric from public officials throughout the nation is putting our LGBTQ+ communities in danger, and we will not stand for it.”
Raoul also has joined a coalition of states that have filed two separate legal briefs opposing laws he said would weaken LGBT anti-discrimination protections, including Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law. Raoul is among 18 attorneys general filing an amicus brief in Tennessee v. Department of Education and a separate coalition of 17 attorneys general opposing a Florida law that prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
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