LGBT rights in Illinois

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Map of USA IL.svg
StatusLegal since 1962
(Legislative repeal)
GenderSex reassignment surgery not required to amend birth certificate
DiscriminationProtections for sexual orientation and gender identity (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsCivil unions since 2011; Same-sex marriage since 2014

Illinois is seen as one of the most progressive states in the United States in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights and often viewed as one of the most liberal states in the Midwestern United States.[1] Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1962, after Illinois became the first U.S. state to repeal its sodomy laws. Same-sex marriage was banned by statute in 1996, but has since been legalized in November 2013, after a law allowing such marriages was signed by then-Governor Pat Quinn on November 20 and went into effect on June 1, 2014.[2] Civil unions also have been legal statewide since 2011 and same-sex couples are also allowed to adopt children. Additionally, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is banned in the state. Since 2016, conversion therapy on minors has also been forbidden.

Chicago has a vibrant LGBT community. The first pride parade took place in 1970, a year after the Stonewall riots. In 2017, the Chicago Pride Parade attracted about 1 million attendees.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

On July 28, 1961, Illinois enacted the Laws of Illinois 1961, a new state law code, that became effective on January 1, 1962, and eliminated the state's sodomy laws. It was the first state to eliminate its sodomy laws and established an age of consent of 18.[3] Notably, sodomy was not legalized, but actually de facto decriminalized because the laws against the "infamous crime against nature either with man or beast" were not included in the Criminal Code of 1961.[4] However, the code also made it a crime to commit a "lewd fondling or caress of the body of another person of the same sex" in a public place. In 1963, the Legislature passed a new law that changed the words "the same sex" to "either sex."[3] In 1984, the "lewd fondling or caress" law was repealed and the age of consent was lowered to 16. On 1 January 2012, the age of consent was raised again in Illinois to 17.[5]

Fornication is a criminal offense in Illinois. As of 2019, no proposal or bill has been introduced to repeal this law.[6]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]


  • SB 1773

SB 1773, introduced by Representative Tom Johnson in 1996, amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to preclude out-of-state recognition of same-sex marriage and reinforce the state's marriage ban in light of Baehr v. Lewin in Hawaii. It was vigorously opposed, with 12,000 letters being written by clergymen, parishioners and other citizens of all faiths. Representatives Ronen, Schakowsky and Currie led the futile effort to defeat the bill, with Rep. Ronen stating at one point, "...don't delude yourself, to think that you are doing God's work. I would remind you that a long list of clergy and religious groups have forcefully spoken out against this Bill."[7] The bill passed 42-9 in the Senate and 87-13 (6 abstain) in the House. The bill was signed in May 1996.

  • SB 10 (Marriage)

Same-sex marriage was legalized via statute in November 2013, after the Illinois House of Representatives narrowly approved same-sex marriage legislation by 61 votes to 54 (achieving the 60 vote required threshold).[8] The Illinois Senate subsequently approved the legislation 32-21 (achieving the 30 vote required threshold).[9] Barack Obama (then-President of the United States and former Senator of Illinois) welcomed the bill, stating on his Instagram page: "Congratulations, Illinois. Love is love."[10] The bill was signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on November 20,[11] and it went into effect June 1, 2014.[12]

Civil unions[edit]

On January 31, 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that recognizes same-sex civil unions performed on or after June 1, 2011. The Civil Union Act allows the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of Illinois as the equivalent of an Illinois civil union. If a person undergoes sex reassignment surgery, the marriage is still recognized by the state, even though the parties to the marriage are of the same sex.[13]

Illinois has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2006.[14]

In 2012, legislation to repeal the state's recognition of same-sex civil unions was introduced in the House of Representatives, but was not considered by the House.[15]


In May 2012, both Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits in state court challenging the refusal of the Cook County clerk's office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Both contend that the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act violates the Illinois Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.[15][16] These lawsuits have since been abandoned due to the State Legislature passing a same-sex marriage law in November 2013.

On February 21, 2014, a federal judge authorized Cook County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples without waiting for the Illinois statute legalizing same-sex marriage to take effect on June 1, and the county clerk began issuing licenses immediately.[17][18]

Discrimination protections and anti-bullying laws[edit]

The 2018 edition of Chicago Pride

Since June 1, 2006, Illinois has protected LGBT persons from discrimination (only for companies and businesses with 15 or more employees). The state's anti-discrimination law includes sexual orientation, and also bans discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations or credit on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, marital status and military status. The definition of sexual orientation explicitly includes gender identity.[19][20] The Illinois Human Rights Act states: "'Sexual orientation' means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth. 'Sexual orientation' does not include a physical or sexual attraction to a minor by an adult."

The city of Chicago enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance in 1988.

In 2014, Illinois expanded its anti-bullying laws to make them inclusive of LGBT people. Illinois law prohibits bullying based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, unfavorable discharge from military service, association with a person or group with one or more of the aforementioned actual or perceived characteristics, or any other distinguishing characteristic.[21][22]

In June 2018, the Illinois Legislature passed a bill to repeal the "15 or more employees in a company or business" legal loophole.[23][24] In August 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill,[25] and no attempts to override his veto were undertaken before the Legislature adjourned sine die in January 2019.

Adoption and parenting[edit]

The state permits adoption by gay individuals or partners, including second-parent adoptions[26] The Illinois Domestic Violence Act, which protects people who share or used to share a dwelling or a "dating relationship" with their abusers, is written in gender-neutral language and is applicable to same-sex partners.[27]

Hate crime law[edit]

Since 1991, Illinois has had hate crime legislation on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation only. The law did not explicitly protect attacks based on gender identity as such, but gender identity cases could be prosecuted as perceived sexual orientation cases.[28]

On April 16, 2015 and on May 20, 2015, the House and the Senate of the Illinois Legislature, respectively, passed HB 3930 unanimously to add and include "gender identity" into the Illinois hate crime statutes.[29][30] On July 20, 2015, the bill was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner and became effective on January 1, 2016.[31]

Gay panic defense[edit]

In June 2017, the Illinois General Assembly unanimously passed SB1761 to repeal the gay and trans panic defense.[32][33] Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law on August 25, 2017,[34] and it went into effect on January 1, 2018. Both California and Rhode Island have also repealed the gay and trans panic defence.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

In the past, Illinois law permitted reassignment on birth certificates, but a major obstacle prevented some from being able to.

Any person could legally change their gender, but in order to legally change it, the state required transgender people to have "an operation(s) having the effect of reflecting, enhancing, changing, reassigning or otherwise affecting gender."[35] This was interpreted to at least include sex reassignment surgery, facial laser hair removal, facial electrolysis, and chest surgery. This was an obstacle because some couldn't afford the required medical treatment and some do not feel surgery is needed for their personal gender journey, but still desire to legally transition.[36][37]

On May 31, 2017, HB1785 passed the Illinois Legislature (House vote 63-43 and Senate vote 32-22) to abolish the sex reassignment surgery requirement, before gender markers can be changed on Illinois drivers licences, birth certificates and other Illinois government forms.[38] Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill on August 25, 2017,[34] and it went into effect on January 1, 2018.

Respect of pronouns for burial instructions[edit]

On August 20, 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB 3552 which allows a person to specify their gender identity and preferred gender pronouns in binding funeral and burial instructions. The law became effective on January 1, 2016.[39]

HB 3552 was passed 79-34 in the Illinois House on April 14, 2015 and the Illinois Senate in a unanimous 49-0 vote on May 26, 2015.[40][41][42]

Conversion therapy[edit]

The Chicago Pride parade in 1985

On April 10, 2014, a bill that would have banned sexual orientation change efforts (conversion therapy) failed in the Illinois House of Representatives with a 44–51 vote and 22 members not voting.[43]

The bill was reintroduced in the 2015 legislative session as HB 217, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act.[44][45] On May 19, 2015, the state House passed the ban in a 68–43 vote,[46][47] and on May 29 the Senate passed it in a 34-19 vote.[48]

On August 20, 2015, Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner signed it into law. It prohibits mental health providers from attempting to practice conversion therapy on minors under 18. The law became effective on January 1, 2016, making Illinois the fifth jurisdiction in the United States to ban conversion therapy.[49][50]

In August 2016, a group of Illinois pastors sued the Illinois Government, arguing that the state's conversion therapy ban is unconstitutional because it "interferes with religious freedom".[51] On February 15, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the suit as nonjusticiable, ruling that pastors are not subject to the Illinois conversion therapy ban because private religious counseling is not "trade or commerce."[52]

In schools[edit]

Sex education lessons in Illinois are not compulsory, but schools that do teach it must provide students with age appropriate, evidence-based and medically accurate information concerning contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV) through Year 6 to 12 (age 11-18). Parents may choose to have their child(ren) opt out.[53]

In May 2018, the Illinois Senate approved a bill requiring public schools to teach LGBT history, with the aim of "increasing compassion and understanding as well as to provide historical role models for LGBT students".[54] The bill failed to pass its third reading in the House before the Legislature adjourned sine die.

Bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, amongst others, is explicitly prohibited under Illinois statutory law.[21]

Public opinion[edit]

Participants of the 2016 Chicago Pride parade commemorating the victims of the Pulse shooting.

A February 2013 Crain's/Ipsos poll found that 50% of Illinois residents favored the same-sex marriage bill under consideration by the Legislature, while 29% opposed it. The survey also found that feelings were stronger among those favoring legalization.[55] A majority of Illinois residents supported civil unions, health benefits for partners, and protections from hate crimes and discrimination.[56]

An October 2013 poll commissioned by Equality Illinois showed that 52% of the state favored same-sex marriage, while 40% were opposed. 8% were undecided on the issue.[57]

According to a poll, conducted between February 28 and March 10, 2015 by Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute of Illinois, 54.9% of registered voters supported same-sex marriage, 20% favored civil unions, 6.7% of voters were unsure, and only 18.4% opposed both marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples, meaning 74.9% support legal recognition of some kind. This was based on a survey of 1,000 registered voters in Illinois and had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. The poll was taken approximately 15 months after the same-sex marriage bill was signed by then-Governor Quinn, nine months after marriage was legal for same-sex couples (statewide), and four months before the Supreme Court nationalized marriage for same-sex couples under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.[58]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) opinion poll found that 65% of Illinois residents supported same-sex marriage, while 25% opposed it and 10% were unsure.[59] The same poll found that 71% of Illinois residents supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity, while 21% were opposed.[60] Furthermore, 59% were against allowing public businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people due to religious beliefs, while 33% supported allowing such religiously-based refusals.[61]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1962)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2006)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2006)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2006)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2014)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2011)
Single LGBT individuals may adopt Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2018)
Conversion therapy banned on minors Yes (Since 2016)
Right to change legal gender Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes/No (1 year deferral period)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McClelland, Edward (2011-05-06). "Why Illinois is America's most liberal state". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  2. ^ Ring, Trudy (2013-11-07). "Illinois Governor will sign marriage equality legislation November 20". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  3. ^ a b Painter, George (10 August 2004). "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States: Illinois". The Sensibilities of Our Forefathers. Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  4. ^ Belovol, Maxim (April 2017). "Illinois Sodomy Laws: A Brief History and Their Repeal". The Chicago Style.
  5. ^ Illinois Age of Consent Laws 2017
  6. ^ "Illinois Compiled Statutes". Illinois General Assembly. Sec. 11-40 Fornication... Fornication is a Class B misdemeanor
  8. ^ Garcia, Monique; Long, Ray (November 5, 2013). "Lawmakers approve gay marriage in Illinois". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "Gay marriage bill passes in Illinois house, senate - on to governors desk". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  10. ^ Barack Obama on Instagram: “Congratulations, Illinois. #LoveIsLove” (November 6, 2013)
  11. ^ Ring, Trudy (2013-11-07). "Ill. Gov Will Sign Marriage Equality Bill November 20". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  12. ^ "Governor Pat Quinn Signs Marriage Equality Into Law". Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Illinois Law | Illinois Gender Advocates". Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  14. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  15. ^ a b Chicago Tribune: Rex W. Huppke, "Same-sex marriage supporters take their fight to Illinois courts," May 29, 2012, accessed May 30, 2012
  16. ^ Minnesota Public Radio: Sophia Tareen, "ACLU challenges Ill. marriage law," May 30, 2012, accessed May 30, 2012
  17. ^ Esposito, Stefano; Schlickerman, Becky (February 21, 2014). "Gay marriages in Cook Co. don't have to wait, judge rules". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  18. ^ Manchir, Michelle (February 21, 2014). "Judge: Same sex couples can marry now in Cook County". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  19. ^ Illinois Anti-Discrimination Law
  20. ^ "Illinois Bans Anti-Gay and Anti-Transgender Discrimination" (Press release). TaskForce. 2005-01-11. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  21. ^ a b "Gov. Quinn Signs Anti-Bullying Bill". Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  22. ^ Illinois Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies
  23. ^ Bill Status of HB4572 100th General Assembly Illinois General Assembly
  24. ^ "EI Urges Gov. Rauner to Extend Non-Discrimination Protections to All Illinois Workplaces". Windy City Media Group. June 15, 2018.
  25. ^ Illinois Gov. Vetoes Expansion of Nondiscrimination Law
  26. ^ Recent vote puts spotlight on gay adoption", Medill School of Journalism.
  27. ^ Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986. 750 ILCS 60/103(6).
  28. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Illinois Hate Crimes Law, accessed May 30, 2012
  29. ^ HB 3930
  30. ^ Amendment to hate crimes law clears General Assembly
  31. ^ Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner Signs Enhanced Hate Crimes Law
  32. ^ “Gay Panic” Is No Longer a Legitimate Reason to Murder Someone in Illinois
  33. ^ Bill Status of SB1761
  34. ^ a b Bills on birth certificates and LGBT "panic" defense signed in Illinois
  35. ^ "Illinois Vital Records". Retrieved 2014-06-29.
  36. ^ Report: women who identify LGBT more likely to live in poverty
  37. ^ AMA says transgender people shouldn't require surgery to change their birth certificate
  38. ^ Bill Status of HB1785
  39. ^ Illinois Republican Governor signs two more pro equality bills
  40. ^ Illinois General Assesmbly: Vote History
  41. ^ See here
  42. ^ Also see here
  43. ^ "Bill to ban conversion therapy on gay youth fails in Ill. state House". LGBTQ Nation. April 11, 2014.
  44. ^ See here for more
  45. ^ Conversion therapy ban in Illinois (Equakity Illinois)
  46. ^ HB 217 information
  47. ^ Illinois House votes to protect LGBT youth
  48. ^ Illinois Senate - HB 217
  49. ^ Illinois becomes fifth jurisdiction in U.S. to protect LGBTQ kids from conversion therapy
  50. ^ Illinois General Assembly - HB 217 Information
  52. ^ "IL Gay Conversion Therapy Ban Doesn't Apply to Pastors, Religious Counselors, Judge Says". Cook County Record. March 1, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  53. ^ State policies on sex education in schools
  54. ^ SB 3249
  55. ^ "Illinoisans back gay marriage 50-29: Crain's/Ipsos poll". Crain's Chicago Business. February 19, 2013. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
  56. ^ Sociological Images: Opinions on Gay Rights Issues by State," June 16, 2009, accessed May 30, 2012
  57. ^ "Illinois' voters support marriage equality" (PDF). Equality Illinois. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  58. ^ Poll: Majority of voters support same-sex marriage
  59. ^ Public opinion on same-sex marriage by state: Illinois
  60. ^ Public opinion on LGBT nondiscrimination laws by state: Illinois
  61. ^ Public opinion on religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people by state: Illinois