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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Bills on birth certificates and LGBT "panic" defense signed in Illinois
From press releases
2017-08-25

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From Equality Illinois and ACLU:

CHICAGO — Legislative sponsors, Equality Illinois and ACLU of Illinois celebrated the signing of House Bill 1785 today, modernizing the Illinois Vital Records Act and allowing transgender and intersex individuals to change the gender marker on their birth certificates without undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Illinois now joins 14 additional states, the District of Columbia and the federal government in ensuring this important access. Statements from legislators and organizations are below:

State Senator Toi Hutchinson — 40th District

"Transgender and intersex persons in Illinois deserve to live their lives with dignity and safety, consistent with their gender identity. It is an honor to have worked with so many others to pass this legislation, especially as we see other states and the White House attempt to enshrine discrimination based on gender identity into law."

State Representative Greg Harris — 13th District

"I'm proud to be part of a team in Illinois that is expanding equality and fairness for all our citizens. Especially in a time when so many are trying to roll back legal protections and foster intolerance and hate, it is important that we stand together."

John Knight, Director, LGBT and HIV Project, ACLU of Illinois

"Today, we Illinoisans celebrate a huge breakthrough in making our state a little better place for transgender people as well as their friends, family members and other allies. We've joined the ranks of the growing number of states and the District of Columbia that have eliminated their outmoded and unnecessary surgical requirement to correct the gender marker on your birth certificate. Doing so has made Illinois a better place for all of us, since every one of us benefits from living in a state that celebrates and protects its most vulnerable citizens.

It's basic common sense that a person's gender should be recognized and respected, whether or not that person has had any particular kind of surgery. Isn't it equally obvious that the government should not be in the business of requiring people to have surgery that they may not want or need in order to secure a birth certificate that accurately reflects who they are? Because laws that require surgery for which many transgender people have no medical need in order to secure an accurate ID document and deny many transgender people accurate identity documents, leading medical organizations have urged the elimination of such surgical requirements, such as the one eliminated by HB 1785.

This important measure would not have become law without the signature of Governor Bruce Rauner, and the support of legislative leaders, including State Representative Greg Harris and State Senator Toi Hutchinson, who guided the bill through the legislature. Most important to the process were the dozens of transgender and intersex people who have come forward to share their stories with legislators. These brave individuals have been willing to share deeply personal information about themselves in order to help break down barriers of misunderstanding that have fed discrimination against transgender and intersex individuals for way too many years. I'm extremely proud of our state for taking this important step to modernize a law that has been a significant barrier in transgender people's lives for many, many years."

Brian C. Johnson, CEO, Equality Illinois

"With the simple act of bringing Illinois law up to date with modern medical standards, the lives of transgender and intersex people have become meaningfully better. Every year, we hear stories about how the outdated requirement to undergo surgery before updating the gender marker on your birth certificate placed an onerous burden on transgender Illinoisans. The American Medical Association and many other respected professional organizations said this burden was unnecessary and inconsistent with modern medical standards.

We heard from a transgender high school senior in Springfield who said the costs of the unnecessary surgical procedures required by the old law means he'd have to sacrifice a year of college. We listened to a mother in Urbana who lamented that the state will deny her child's authentic self if the law was not modernized. And we read a letter from a transgender woman born in Illinois who now lives in Arizona about how she has no agenda other than to live authentically and without burden.

Now, transgender and intersex individuals born in Illinois can update their birth certificate, and align all their relevant identification documents, consistent with modern medical standards. Thank you to Governor Bruce Rauner for signing the bill into law today and to our chief sponsors Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Toi Hutchinson for their fierce leadership and tenacity."

From Lambda Legal:

( Chicago, IL, August 25, 2017 ) — Today, House Bill 1785, which updates the Illinois Vital Records Act to make it easier for transgender and intersex people who were born in the state to amend the gender marker on their birth certificates, became law. The law now requires "clinically appropriate" treatment as determined by a licensed medical or mental health professional in order to change the gender marker, as opposed to an affidavit from a physician who performed surgery on the individual, effectively eliminating the outdated surgical requirement and bringing Illinois in line with federal passport and US consular birth certificate standards.

Also signed into law today was Senate Bill 1761, which eliminates the "gay panic" defense in murder cases. SB 1761 passed unanimously in both houses of the General Assembly. Illinois is only the second state in the country to have such a law, California is the first. The new law prohibits the use of a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity as a justification for murder.

Christopher Clark, Midwest Regional Director for Lambda Legal issued the following statement applauding the signing of the two bills:

"Today, our state is a fairer and more inclusive place for all people. Transgender and intersex people born in our state will now have easier access to important identity documents that are necessary to work, travel, obtain vital benefits, and most importantly, navigate the world a little safer. By eliminating the surgical requirement, we now have a better law that is in line with medical standards of care, and puts important and very personal health care decisions in the hands of individuals and their health care professionals—where they belong.

"Special gratitude goes to Representative Greg Harris and Senator Toi Hutchinson for making this day a reality, as well as to all who co-sponsored the bill and worked together with a coalition of advocacy groups in Illinois, including Lambda Legal, to draft a bill that would put the needs and real-life experiences of transgender and intersex people first. This bill will help a lot of people, and everyone involved should be very proud.

""Gay panic" and "trans panic" defenses rely on anti-LGBT bias and reinforce it, perpetuating a vicious cycle of violence against our communities. LGBT people, especially transgender women of color, are more likely to be victims of violent crime. We look to courts for justice, not to put victims on trial. We hope that other states will take Illinois' example and do the same.

"Congratulations to Equality Illinois on these important efforts to protect LGBT and intersex people in Illinois."


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