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LGBTQ activists travel to Springfield for Advocacy Day
by Vern Hester
2019-05-19

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On May 15, Equality Illinois hosted the annual Advocacy Day in Springfield, Illinois, in partnership with other statewide LGBTQ organizations. The daylong event featured a training session, brief meetings with state legislature members, and an LGBTQ-focused reception with Gov. J. B. Pritzer.

For years, Advocacy Day has presented the LGBTQ community the chance to meet with state lawmakers and lobby for initiatives that will insure that Illinois will remain one of the strongest states in the country for LGBTQ equality and inclusion.

The bills that lobbyists spoke with lawmakers on included HB 246 ( a pending bill that would ensure the inclusion of LGBTQ contributions in the history curriculum taught in Illinois public schools ), HB 2665 ( an AIDS Foundation of Chicago initiative that would align Illinois law with federal guidance regarding access by youth to preventive health care ) and SB 1319 ( which would help cultivate an affirming environment for LGBTQ older adults, many of whom face unique challenges as they age because of their identity. ). Two other bills included in lobbying efforts were SB 1378 ( which would establish non-discrimination protections in jury selections for LGBTQ Illinoisans ) and SB 556 ( which would designate single-occupancy restrooms in public spaces as gender-neutral ).

After meeting at the Wynham Hotel in downtown Springfield, participants from Chicago and throughout the state were greeted with encouragement from Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson, AIDS Foundation of Chicago President/CEO John Peller, and Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt.

Peller said, "This is the day when we prove that we are everywhere, in every city, every township, and every county in the state of Illinois." Lamont Robinson Jr.—who sponsored HB 2665 and is the first openly gay African-American state representative in Illinois—said, "Me, [out legislators] Greg Harris and Kelly Cassidy ... we cannot do the work alone, which is why this day is so important." On his pending bill he spoke about how the legislation could impact the alarming HIV rates in the Black and Brown communities, saying, "It is a bill that can change the direction of our community."

After a brief training session, participants headed to the State Capitol for short meetings with public officials and legislators. Among those who participants were able to speak with were State Rep. Diane Pappas ( 45th District ), State Sen. Emil Jones III ( 14th ), State Rep. Will Guzzardi ( 39th ) and State Rep. Mary E. Flowers ( 31st ). Equality Illinois Advocacy participants also mingled with and supported lobbyists for Planned Parenthood who were also speaking with lawmakers.

After the lobbying even, participants headed to the governor's mansion for a reception and panel discussion. Pritzker led the dialogue for the panel, which included Dr. Jonna J. Cooley Ph.D., director of The Phoenix Center in Springfield; Erik Glenn, of The Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus; Kenny Martin-Ocasio, senior vice president of Community, Integration, and Health Services at ALMA ( The Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action ); and Springfield small-business owner Shayla Pfaffe.

Other participating LGBTQ organizations included Affinity Community Services, ALMA Illinois, The LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Peoria Proud, The Phoenix Center, Prairie Pride Coalition ( Bloomington/Normal Illinois ), The Rainbow Cafe ( Carbondale Illinois ) and WPT ( East St. Louis ).


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