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Illinois passes LGBTQ panic defense ban, birth certificate law

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation on Wednesday, May 31: A bill banning the “gay panic” defense and a law making it easier to update birth certificates.

House Bill 1785, a measure to modernize Illinois law allowing people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, passed the Senate Wednesday night 32-22. Having previously passed in the House, the bill now goes to Gov. Rauner’s desk for his signature. It was sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights).

“”No one should face the dilemma of being denied a birth certificate that conforms with their gender simply because they are unable – or cannot afford – to undergo surgery that the medical community agrees is not necessary for everyone who transitions,” John Knight, Director of the ACLU of Illinois’ LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement. “People who are transgender and intersex should make their own medical decisions with the guidance of medical health professionals—not politicians. We urge Governor Rauner to sign this bill as soon as possible.”

Senate Bill 1761 was passed in the House by 104-0, following last month’s unanimous Senate vote. Under the bill, defendants would not be able to use a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity as an excuse to receive a reduced murder charge. If signed, Illinois would become the second state in the country to legislatively curtail the effectiveness of these defenses that allows defendants to justify violence against LGBTQ people by blaming the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. California legislatively adopted a panic defense ban in 2014. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford).

“At a time when one-fifth of hate crimes reported to the FBI are committed against LGBTQ people, the Illinois General Assembly sent a powerful bipartisan message today that anti-LGBTQ stigma must not carry over to the courtroom,” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois.

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