In a country that doesn't (officially) recognize state-sponsored religion, whose Constitution says "all men are created equal," where bigotry and bias are abhorred — why do otherwise intelligent and sensitive people feel they can engage in hate speech against gay people?

Despite tenets such as [More...]



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Friday, January 14, 2005

Not In My Backyard

For one Illinois senator, the fear of gay marriage is enough to thwart equal protection for gay people in all areas. I'm glad he went on record, though. Maybe now people will clearly see: The individuals who come out swinging against gay folks' prerogative to get married are the same people who don't want them to have any rights whatsoever. Sorry, buddy -- in America (and now, officially, in Illinois), it doesn't work that way.

Gay Rights Bill Advances

January 11 -- For the first time ever, the Illinois Senate approved a controversial measure Monday that would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in matters of housing and employment, clearing a long-standing hurdle to passage and inspiring one key sponsor to proclaim a victory for "fundamental freedom."

Senators passed the bill 30-27, with one member voting present.

The measure now heads to the House, where sponsors vowed to pass it. The lower chamber pushed the same measure through committee Monday and now has it queued up for a floor vote on Tuesday.

If signed into law, the measure will add "sexual orientation" to the list of reasons for which people cannot discriminate in housing, lending and employment. The measure specifically states that the law would not require any employer, lender, real estate agent or landlord to give preferential treatment or special rights to people based on their sexual orientation.

"It sends a message that we in the Illinois Senate and Illinois believe that everybody has the right to equal protection," an enthusiastic Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago), the sponsor of the measure, said after the vote. "We're a state that cares about that. We're a state that values certain fundamental truths, and a certain fundamental freedom."

Critics of the proposal claim the activists' ultimate goal is not just to end discrimination but to shift social norms about acceptable behavior. Some conservative religious leaders say if the gay rights bill passes, a push for gay marriage will be next.

Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) warned his colleagues that they were opening that door.

"To vote yes, and to say, `Oh listen, I just voted for this very narrow thing.' Oh, no. Oh, no," he said. "We're voting on a much, much, much bigger agenda than that."

Gay activists expect the House to approve the measure. Rep. Larry McKeon (D-Chicago), the only openly gay member of the legislature, said he thinks he has more than the minimum 60 votes needed to pass the measure.

Four years ago, when the proposal was last before the House, no fewer than 63 lawmakers committed to vote for it, he said.

Whether they have a strong opinion about homosexual behavior or not, McKeon said, many House lawmakers think the measure is simply a matter of fairness.

"I know firsthand the extent of discrimination in employment and housing," McKeon said. "It's usually those with the least amount of resources that are impacted. The whole issue is quite real. ... I will sleep very comfortably when I know that this last bastion of sanctioned discrimination has been wiped out."

In trying to persuade other senators to vote in favor of the measure, Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) took issue with social conservatives who say it would be supportive of the homosexual lifestyle.

Cullerton, a Roman Catholic, quoted a priest who made what he found to be a convincing point: The real immorality, he said, is in discrimination.

"[What if] somebody says, `You know what? We just don't rent to people like you.'" Cullerton said. "It's wrong." --
By Ray Long and Christi Parsons, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Erika Slife contributed

Read the entire article here --> http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0501110468jan11,1,217013.story?coll=chi-news-hed


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