6/29/20 - A Message from IDHS Secretary Hou & IDHR Director Bennett: LGBTQ Pride

Monday, June 29, 2020

Good afternoon,

We are pleased to join together in this message to our staff as human services and human rights are so inextricably linked. Our departments are aligned in our mission and work together to advance equity in our state.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month and marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots, considered the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. In 1969, few establishments were open to gay people, but the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village was. Because of this, it was a place where police raids were common. The early leaders of this movement were the patrons of the bar, the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: people of color, butch lesbians, effeminate young men, homeless youth, and trans people. It was a Black trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson, who is credited with leading this uprising against police brutality and inspiring the movement for LGBTQ rights.

Movements that fight for fairness, justice, and equality are inextricably linked. It's certainly no coincidence that Stonewall occurred in the shadow of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam movements. For many LGBTQ Americans, Pride has been a celebration of visibility as well as a demand for equality and equity. But in the past decade, many in the LGBTQ community have become increasingly disenchanted that many of the Pride events have focused too much on big businesses showing their support through sponsorships, ads, and merchandise and not enough on rights.

Like everything this year, nothing feels the same, and sometimes that's not so bad. The Chicago Pride parade that had been canceled due to COVID-19 was replaced yesterday with a grassroots march, 'Pride Without Prejudice/Reclaim Pride' focused on lifting up marginalized communities around Chicago.

While there have been setbacks for the LGBTQ community, there has also been recent victories. This month, the federal Department of Health and Human Services issued federal rules, trying to erase civil rights protections for transgender people against discrimination by doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies. But this did not stand in Illinois, in great part due to our Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination, under Illinois law, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender-related identity in healthcare settings, including in the offering and provision of health insurance coverage.

Just this Friday, Governor Pritzker, with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), and the Illinois Department of Insurance (IDOI), released legal guidance that highlights the existing, State-mandated nondiscrimination protections for healthcare and reminds the Illinois healthcare community of their ongoing obligations to deliver healthcare services in a non-discriminatory manner.

In addition, during the previous week, in an historic 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This decision confirms workplace anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country.

Much has been accomplished, but there is also much work ahead. So, let's commit and act to advance equality for all. Let's continue to remember how our movements are linked and how each of us depend on the other to move forward.


Jim Bennett, IDHR Director

Grace B. Hou, IDHS Secretary