SPRINGFIELD — Members of Equality Illinois gathered in Springfield on Wednesday for the first in-person LGBTQ+ advocacy day since 2019, even as other states are moving to limit access to gender-affirming care and education.
Illinois, sometimes called a “blue island,” stands in stark contrast to nearby states with conservative-majority legislatures. In neighboring Missouri, for instance, the American Civil Liberties Union is tracking more than 48 bills that it says target the LGBTQ community.
Republican lawmakers in states across the country have sought to ban gender-affirming care for minors; restrictions have gone into effect in eight states this year alone. Other measures have included efforts to bar transgender athletes from youth sports and limit how teachers can communicate about gender identity and sexual orientation.
“I am gay, I’m trans, so every chance I get I want to advocate for myself and my peers and my family and my future children,” Lennon Kelly, a 14-year-old Decatur resident, told Lee Enterprises. “We’re people too, we’re not just this problem, and this is not a new thing.
“The things you do, the things you say, it hurts us. I need people to understand that.”
Opponents of gender-affirming care argue that research is limited and raise concerns about the effect of long-term treatments on teenagers. But advocates maintain the question is one of fundamental human rights — and, many say, a matter of life and death.
“Human rights, just the basic right to exist as myself should not be a political issue,” said Aydin Tariq, a 15-year-old from Mattoon. ”I shouldn’t have to look on the news and see the people my area elected into power arguing and debating whether or not I should have the right to exist as who I am.”
While Illinois has generally embraced legislative attempts to protect LGBTQ+ rights, advocates say there is room for additional steps. Among the measures supported Wednesday was House Bill 1286, sponsored by Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago. The measure would allow businesses to include all-gender multiple occupancy bathrooms in their establishments if they want.
“Multiple occupancy, all-gender restrooms are very important because they offer options for our transgender and non-binary community,” said Dave Bentlin, president of the Prairie Pride Coalition in Bloomington, in an interview.
Bentlin said the legislation could also help other marginalized groups, such as those with disabilities, because it would make bathrooms easier to access. He stressed, however, that the measure is not a mandate on businesses.
The bill passed from House and was scheduled for a Senate committee hearing later Wednesday.
“I’m really proud to be able to sort of be able to champion a lot of their issues,” said Rep. Sharon Chung, D-Bloomington, referring to the LGBTQ+ community. “I know that they’re also excited to come talk to me about them knowing that they’ll have a friendly face and a really strong voice for their issues.”
Other legislation discussed was Senate Bill 2427, of which Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, is the chief sponsor, and House Bill 2280, sponsored by Rep. Dagmara Avelar, D-Bolingbrook.
The bills would require medical professionals to take cultural competency training as part of their continuing education requirements.
“As a physician, we are in a highly changing, high-technology field and we’re constantly having to be educated in our field, in our specialty and other requirements,” said Rep. Bill Hauter, a Morton Republican who is a certified anesthesiologist and emergency medical doctor. “I think there is a true benefit to being culturally competent, and other issues with equity and diversity. They’re all important, but as physicians we need to be able to be in-charge of our own continuing medical education.”
Both medical competency bills are waiting to pass from their respective committees.
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April 26, 2023 at 06:29PM