A measure that would protect gay men and lesbians in Illinois from discrimination in jobs and housing is headed to the state senate floor. The senate executive committee voted 8-4 to approve the bill, which would add the category of sexual orientation to the antidiscrimination provisions of the state's human rights law. It is the first time state officials can remember the measure making this much progress in the senate. Bills banning discrimination against gays have passed the Democratic-controlled house several times in recent years. Such legislation has consistently died in the senate. However, Democrats now
control the senate for the first time in a decade. "This is just a matter of fairness and justice," said Sen. Carol Ronen, the bill's sponsor. "This will not hurt any institution. It will make this a better state and a better society just by providing equal protection."
Despite the new Democratic majority in the senate, the bill's prognosis is not good. Three Democrats--Louis Viverito, George Shadid, and Vince Demuzio--voted yes in committee but said they would vote against the measure on the floor. Opponents say the provision would give gays special rights and violate guarantees of free expression for some institutions such as churches.