More than 100 community members became advocates and activists April 11 when Equality Illinois rallied its supporters at LGBTQ Advocacy Day at the Illinois Statehouse.
The LGBT-rights organization usually brings community members to Springfield to lobby legislators and other elected officials on matters that are important to LGBT Illinoisans. This year, the principal focus is legislation that would introduce LGBT history into the state's schools.
About half the participants were from central and southern Illinois, according to Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson.
"The focus was connecting legislators with constituents to talk about our inclusive curriculum bill," he told Windy City Times. "We know from stories how important it is LGBTQ youth learn about our community's contributions to history. We've been telling that to legislators, but actually having legislators hear that directly from youth, parents and LGBTQ people, [about the importance of] learning about our role models in school and in history, is really powerful."
Among those who met participants at the training session included Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Julianna Stratton and 5th House District representative candidate Lamont Robinson. Participants were able to meet with, among others, Gov. Bruce Rauner, state Rep. Nicholas Smith ( D-Chicago ) and state Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant ( D-Plainfield ) and Scott Bennett ( D-Champaign ).
"We're one of the few historically marginalized communities that can't pass down our own histories down from one generation to the next in our own families," Johnson said. "We're not 'born into' the community. We have to learn about our forefathers and foremothers in the movement in the same way that everyday learns about itin the public square. … We're just trying to write that law, so that all Illinois kids, regardless of their sexual identity, will get an understanding that LGBTQ people have always been part of history and have always been part of making our current society the great place that it is."
Vernon Hester contributed to this story.