Bill protecting gays clears state Senate, nears passage
January 11, 2005
BY BEN FISCHER AND DAVE MCKINNEY Sun-Times Springfield Bureau
SPRINGFIELD – A bid to give gays, lesbians and bisexuals new protections in the workplace and real estate market cleared a major hurdle Monday when the Senate approved a politically contentious, anti-discrimination package.
The proposal, which moves to the House for approval today, had never passed the Senate before Monday’s 30-27 vote. Supporters got the bare minimum 30 votes they needed in part through support from two lame-duck Democrats and three Republicans.
The vote came two days before new state lawmakers begin a two-year term, when work on the measure would have had to start over. Backers expect the bill to pass the House, which has supported it twice in the past 11 years.
Gov. Blagojevich has indicated he will sign it.
“It’s a beautiful way for [the Legislature] to go out on truth, justice and the American way,” said Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago), chief Senate sponsor of the bill.
The measure would add “sexual orientation” to the Illinois Human Rights Act and bar employers and most landlords from discriminating against gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Landlords of owner-occupied buildings with five units or fewer would be exempt.
Opponents cite ‘bigger agenda’
Opponents said the bill was vague and noted possible unintended results, including lawsuits and the potential for legalized gay marriages.
“To vote yes and to say, ‘Listen, I just voted for this very narrow thing,’ oh no. You’re voting on a much, much, much bigger agenda,” said Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), who was against the bill.
The bill won support from two outgoing Democrats, Sen. Lawrence Walsh (D-Elwood) and Sen. Patrick Welch (D-Peru). Republicans backing it included Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry), Sen. Christine Radogno (R-La Grange) and Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac).
Behind the scenes, Cardinal Francis George lobbied Roman Catholic legislators to vote against the bill. But Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago), Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero) and Sen. Louis Viverito (D-Burbank) bucked the church amid a counterpush from the governor and Senate President Emil Jones.
In other business, the Senate voted to carve up Lake, Kane, McHenry, Will and four other Republican-leaning northern Illinois counties into judicial districts meant to elect more minorities to the bench. That bill, which Republicans castigated as a power grab by Democrats, now moves to the House.
The House approved a measure that included $4.9 million for security upgrades at the Statehouse and $17.1 million for the families of military members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. That bill now heads to the Senate.