A crowd of roughly 400 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight allies marched from Roscoe and Halsted, north on Belmont, east on Broadway to Addison to protest more than 250 transgender and gender-variant slayings in recent years.
The Chicago Anti-Bashing Network's 4th annual Matthew Shepard March Against Hate Saturday, Oct. 5, while remembering the slaying of the Wyoming student, also served to memorialize other GLBT bashing victims and support the amending of Chicago's Human Rights ordinance to includegender identity. Marchers also pushed for statewide GLBT rights.
CABN also recognized the common struggle of Arab and South Asians in America who have had their civil liberties infringed upon and violated by the government. Many people also attacked the impending war on Iraq.
The marchers, ranging from punk-looking youth, prominent members of the GLBT community, students and straight allies, held signs reading "Support HB 101," "I support the gender identity amendment," and "I love my girl dick." As they walked past Belmont and Clark shouting "No more hatred, No more fear. Trans people are welcome here," a Windy CityTimes reporter overheard one of the police officer's supervising the march tell another officer that there was a presence of skinheads standing in the area.
A native West Sider from the GLBT community later reported that members from the street gang Street Punks 77, known for violent homophobia and racial and homophobic crimes in Wicker Park and the West Side, had congregated near the march. The source said the Street Punks 77 have created a regular hang out in the Belmont/Clark area of Lakeview.
Trans activist Miranda Stevens-Miller attended and spoke before the march began. "When Matthew Shepard was killed, there were about 50 names of transgender victims of hate crimes inscribed at the Remembering Our Dead Web site. Today, there are over 250 … . They're running at about two a month this year. Sixteen so far this year. In August, the two who were killed were just kids! Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis gunned down as they sat in their car at an intersection, just like this intersection, except it was in Washington, D.C."
She emphasized that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act ( now called the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act ) , introduced in Congress in late fall of 1998 after Shepard 's murder, and which would add sexual orientation, gender and disability to existing federal hate-crimes laws, is still stalled in Congress.
"You would think that it would be a no-brainer to pass a law that prevents hate crimes, especially when 85 percent of the people in this country are in favor of such laws. But that law is still stalled in committee. You would think it would be a no-brainer for Chicago to pass the Chicago Gender Identity Amendment. But that law is still stalled in City Hall," said Miranda. She reminded everyone to attend the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a candlelight vigil, Nov. 20, 6 p.m. at the Thompson Center Plaza.
Kenton Waits, a survivor of alleged gay bashing by the Chicago Police, also spoke. Andy Thayer, co-founder of CABN, reminded marchers to show up in support at Wait's two court dates coming up Oct. 21 and 22. CABN will be issuing e-mail alerts about the court dates as well as posting information on their Web site.
Mahmud Ahmad, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, reminded everyone about the common struggle of Arab, Muslim and South Asians who have their civil liberties trampled upon.
"Arab and Muslims express solidarity with the GLBT community. We stand shoulder to shoulder in the long-going fight against hatred, bigotry and violence," Ahmad said. "We want to use this opportunity to bring communities together to work closely in the future."
Equality at Carle Hospital and the 85% Coalition
It was pediatric nurse Lynn Sprout's first time speaking in front of a large crowd. Terrified: she was determined to give meaning to her partner's death by fighting for Family and Medical Leave for GLBT people. The 85% Coalition, the activists known for their arrest at the State Capital after HB 101 was knocked down last spring, has now joined the Urbana-Champaign woman in her fight to sue her former employer, Carle Hospital, for reinstatement. The hospital fired her for using her vacation time to care for her dying partner of 18 years.
Sprout, a manager in her department and a pediatric nurse, began using her vacation time to take care of her partner as she died of NASH, a non-alcoholic form of liver disease. Together, they had eight children. After working at Carle as a pediatric nurse for 15 years and then as manager for three years, Sprout's partner Linda became terminally ill. Previously closeted at work, Sprout came out as a lesbian hoping to garner support from her long-time employer. She took her own vacation time to seek treatment for her partner, accompanied by their children. When she ran out of vacation time, her staff donated their vacation time to her. But when she called to say she needed more time to care for Linda, hospital administrators told her that Linda was not her family and to let her children care for her. They told her that because she missed so much work her job was in danger. They offered Sprout a choice of either severance pay or a 90-day probationary period if she wished to keep her job.
Sprout went with the 90-day period. During this period, her partner died. She made it through the 90 days and consulted an attorney about filing a harassment suit against the hospital for threatening to terminate her for taking a medical leave. The attorney said she had 180 days in which to file. Content at being back on her job, she never filed. The 180 days came and went. At 180 days, her supervisor called her in and told her she was being terminated because her skills did not fit with the requirements of the hospital. They offered her $28,000, six months of insurance benefits and wanted to send her to counseling because they were worried about her. She turned it down and is now suing Carle Hospital.
Sprout's case will reportedly be the first to test Urbana-Champaign's Human Rights Ordinance, which includes protection for sexual orientation and gender identity and has existed since the mid-1970s.
"This is a potential landmark case for Family Medical Leave for homosexual employees," said Kim Kranich, co-founder of downstate Illinois's 85% Coalition.
It's Time, Illinois Gets an Identity Change
It's Time, Illinois will soon be a 501 ( c ) 3 organization, which will allow them to apply for grants for political advocacy and education.
Beth Plotner, chair of It's Time, Illinois, said the board approved plans to restructure the organization into a non-profit Oct. 3 as well as a name change to the Gender Action Coalition. It's Time, Illinois recently hired their only employee to research laws and issues that may affect passage of the city's Gender Identity Amendment. The new research assistant will thoroughly investigate the passage of precedent laws in other villages and cities, as well as questions that these communities asked during the process&emdash;such as bathroom use issues and other issues City Council members may approach.
Meanwhile, Plotner, also an attorney, said that the GLBT community downstate report a terrible climate. GLBT's have reported that one must be "extremely closeted" and there is more of a "perception of intolerance" than in communities in Chicagoland.
She also said the Illinois Bar Association recently formed a permanent standing committee on sexual orientation and gender identity.