Illinois gay rights bill stalled

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 12 2003 12:00 AM ET

Legislation to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination has stalled in the Illinois state senate, despite predictions that it would get a warmer reception now that the chamber is controlled by Democrats. Supporters aren't giving up, however. They said Thursday that taking more time to lobby senators and build support eventually will produce the last few votes the bill needs. "We don't see this as a setback at all," said Rick Garcia, executive director of Equality Illinois. "This is the first time the bill has come up in the senate. These senators need education on this bill."

It may take a lot of education. Even some Democrats who say they personally favor the bill are planning to vote no because they believe their constituents oppose it. State senator Patrick Welch said many lawmakers fear a yes vote would be used against them in their next campaign. "The issue would be the paramount issue in the race--not the budget, not education," Welch said. "For many downstate senators, I think...basically it leaves them with the opinion that this is a bill that they can't support."

The proposal adds sexual orientation to a state law that bans bias in jobs, housing, public accommodations, and credit. The law now includes race, religion, and similar traits on which it is illegal to base discrimination.