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Judge Lorna Propes on civil unions, hate crimes
ELECTIONS '12: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jamie Anne Royce
2012-03-14

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Lorna Propes (left) with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan


Judge Lorna Propes, a former prosecutor and trial lawyer, is running to keep her seat in the 7th Judicial Subcircuit. Appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Judge Lawrence W. Terrell in 2010, Propes hopes to win the March 20 Democratic primary.

NOTE: View downloadable election guide charts at the following link. This election chart was updated online on Tuesday March 13 with corrections and updates. www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/WCT_2012_primarychartsforweb.pdf .

Windy City Times: Would you apply the law without discrimination based on sexual orientation?

Judge Lorna Lorna Propes: I can absolutely say that I would. When you've been a lawyer working in the courtroom on every side of both civil and criminal cases, and represented people—not just the government, but people—in the courtroom, you realize how important it is that the judge you appear before see the people before them without any predisposition. So, I can pledge that about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, because I can also say I don't plan to discriminate against anyone based on who they are.

WCT: Do you believe there are areas under the law in which LGBT individuals are deprived?

Lorna Propes: I'm against any law that deprives people of any right, including based on sexual orientation. I'm against depriving anyone—based on race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity and so on—of their full rights as an American citizen.

Because I'm sitting in traffic court now, I've been doing civil unions since they were made legal. That has given me an up close and personal view of that area of the law, and I am strongly in favor of LGBT people being able to have marriages, not something separate like civil unions. I don't think there's any reason for that, and I don't know if I would feel as strongly about it if I hadn't had the experience of performing civil unions. I have seen so many people who have been in partnerships, for decades in some cases, who are serious about being married and having a life together that is fully sanctioned under the law. I'm glad we have civil unions, and that we don't have what we had before, which was nothing, but I don't think it should be separate. I think it should be marriage.

WCT: Do you perform many civil unions?

Lorna Propes: I wrote the marriage ceremony I perform, and I'm very proud of that. I modified it to fit the circumstances. When [ performing marriage ceremonies ] I would talk to people about the vows they were making. Most people are young people or people who have been together a short time. But what I found with the civil unions, many of these same-sex couples have been together, 10, 15, 20 years, so I had to change the language a little bit. These people weren't making vows for the first time—they were just affirming their already lifelong commitment.

It was extraordinarily moving to me, how sad it is that the law had denied people the right to have a legally sanctioned partnership and how thrilled they are to be able to do that.

When I perform civil unions, I think [ couples ] view me as a representative of government. I have nothing to do with passing the law, but I was the judge who performed the ceremony. A lot times they will come in and thank me, and I know they don't just mean thank you for performing the ceremony, but thank you as a representative of government for making this happen. It's so affirming. Am I glad we have civil unions? Yes. Have I been thrilled to perform them? I have. Do I think they should be marriages, equal in every way? Yes, I do.

WCT: LGBT hate-crime legislation adds additional penalties to certain crimes that are aggravated by the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim. What are your views on that legislation? Do you think a hate-crimes department is needed in the state's attorney's office?

Lorna Propes: I think that every judge should have the ability to enhance a sentence because a crime was motivated by hate, whether it's racial discrimination, religious discrimination or gender-based discrimination, what have you. Sometimes when a special unit is created, it takes other state's attorneys—and maybe even the judges—off the hook for everything that falls into the special unit's jurisdiction. I'm not criticizing that unit, I'm just saying in my view generally.

I have the same view about gang cases. I think every state's attorney should be capable of prosecuting gang cases, and so they should be aware of all the nuances of those types of cases. Be it a gang crime or hate crime. But do I generally believe, if a crime is motivated by hate, those cases should be recognized and they should be punished more severely, but I think judges should have discretion. I believe in judicial discretion.

For more on Judge Propes, visit www.lornapropesforjudge.com .


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