Cook County Commissioner and Human Relations Committee Vice-Chairperson Kevin Morrison presented an amendment eliminating language that allows someone to ask for identification to prove another person's gender in order to access certain public accommodations at the June 26 Cook County Board Human Relations Committee meeting.
The amendment unanimously passed in the committee June 26 and the entire board June 27. It will immediately go into effect.
The change in the Human Rights Ordinance in Section 42-37 concerning public accommodations removes language that states an individual's sex or gender is based on their driver's license or state identification and replaces it with "'sex' includes both biological category and gender identity. Each person determines their own gender identity; no proof of an individual's sex or gender shall be required except for the person's expression of their own gender."
Among those speaking out in favor of the amendment were Clinical psychologist and University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing Professor Dr. Phoenix Matthews; Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt; Chicago-Kent College of Law graduate Elisabeth Hieber; Equality Illinois Communications Manager and Press Secretary Myles Brady-Davis; Brave Space Alliance Associate Executive Director Stephanie Skora; and a woman named Rachel, who is mother to a transgender girl and did not wish her last name to be used. Cook County Commissioner and Human Relations Committee Chairman Dennis Deer gave opening remarks.
Matthews spoke about her involvement as one of the co-founders of the Chicago Restroom Access Project (CRAP), which successfully changed the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance so all single-stall gendered restrooms signs would now have an all-gender sign.
Hunt made note of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the activism of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, adding that local-level changes like the amendment are vital, especially in light of the Trump administration's continuous rollback of LGBTQ rights.
Hunt said the amendment will "take the power out of the hands of strangers and put it back into the hands of individuals who want to take care of a simple bodily function."
Hieber elaborated on how the ordinance, as it had previously been written, negatively affects transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming people in certain parts of Cook County, especially as it pertains to bathroom access.
Brady-Davis said, "You should not have to prove your gender identity to enter a space like a bathroom … it is fundamentally unfair and dangerous … because many cannot correct their gender-marker on their identification."
Skora remarked that transgender people are already vulnerable in the community, noting that just this year 10 Black transgender women have been killed. They said that, according to the American Medical Association, violence against transgender people is an epidemic and emphasized that people must accept that transgender people are who they say they are, and nothing more.
Rachel spoke about her journey of acceptance of her 12-year-old transgender daughter and the fears she has for her, especially as she grows older and learns that not everyone is as accepting as her family and friends. She said these fears include discrimination, harassment, violence and even death.
Morrison said, "This is an important step forward for the county in taking away a potential barrier for transgender and gender nonconforming residents … Steps like this change here today are vital in making sure it is known that Cook County is a place for everyone to be exactly who they are."
Not only did the amendment receive co-sponsorship support from the rest of the Human Relations Committee, the entire board also signed on as co-sponsors.
Following the committee meeting, Morrison and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle held a press conference in the fifth floor lobby of the county building.
"Across the country, there is an all-out assault on the transgender community," said Morrison, who added that he has a responsibility to continue the legacy of the LGBTQ activists who have come before him, and the work they started to make Cook County a more equitable place for people regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Preckwinkle said she was honored to be there to celebrate Pride month and the committee vote. She explained that there is a direct line from the activism of the '80s to today, when, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, LGBTQ history will be required to be taught in all public middle and high schools across the state.
Cook County Commissioners Bridget Gainer and Alma Anaya and Chicago Commission on Human Relations Chairperson and Commissioner Mona Noriega were also in attendance. Noriega told Windy City Times she was there to lend her support for Morrison's amendment.
At the June 26 Board of Commissioners Consent Calendar meeting, Morrison presented a resolution co-sponsored by Preckwinkle to honor and remember LGBT history in Cook County, while Gainer sponsored a resolution to honor Chicago's historic Legacy Walk. Both were unanimously approved.
To view the resolutions, visit cook-county.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx and cook-county.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx .