Equality Illinois launches drive for LGBTQ leadership
CHICAGO—Equality Illinois is launching a new initiative to build the policy and political power of LGBTQ Illinoisans by linking qualified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people to openings on key state boards and commissions.
“The Boards and Commissions Initiative seeks to enhance the visibility and public leadership of LGBTQ Illinoisans on the important state boards and commissions that are instrumental to the operation of state government and drive major policy decisions,” said Brian C. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois, the state’s LGBTQ civil rights organization.
“We cannot be confident that the LGBTQ community will be fully equal and included until we are affirmed, represented, and visible in public leadership throughout the state. We should live in a world where we are represented at every level of government, including public boards and commissions,” Johnson said
To address this public leadership need, Equality Illinois is launching the Boards and Commissions Initiative. The Initiative will enable Equality Illinois to advocate to the Governor’s Office on behalf of qualified LGBTQ-identified individuals who are inspired to serve on a public board or commission. Equality Illinois will focus on appointments to panels that have power over five key areas that intersect with the needs and priorities of LGBTQ communities: civil rights and civic engagement, economic development, education, health and human services, and public safety and criminal justice but will also encourage service on any board of interest to an LGBTQ Illinoisan.
Among over 350 boards and commissions at the state level, there are critical civil rights entities such as the Illinois Human Rights Commission, which considers and adjudicates claims of discrimination brought under the Illinois Human Rights Act. The State Board of Education and the boards of trustees of our public universities set guidelines and policies for our educational institutions. And when one out of five young people in U.S. juvenile justice facilities identifies as LGBTQ, public safety and law enforcement boards can be key to ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQ people involved in the criminal legal system.
“At a time when the Trump administration is turning its back on LGBTQ people at the federal level, representation and visibility at the local and state levels are more important than ever,” Johnson said. “Having LGBTQ people sit at all levels of public office is important for two reasons. First, such representation ensures that the unique needs and challenges our communities face will be brought into consideration when decisions about us are made. Second, it lifts up the leadership of LGBTQ people. When we are visible leaders in our communities, our experiences and stories can be shared and anti-LGBTQ stigma can be confronted and defeated more forcefully.”
LGBTQ individuals interested in lending their talents to the state through service on a board or commission can submit their resumes to Equality Illinois. In turn, the organization will work with partner LGBTQ and allied organizations to review resumes and interview candidates.
The Equality Illinois Boards and Commissions Initiative follows passage earlier this year of the LGBTQ Public Service Law, another Equality Illinois initiative. The new law allows individuals who apply to serve on boards and commissions under the authority of the Governor’s Office to voluntarily self-identify as LGBTQ. The new law also adds the new data about sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing annual report to the General Assembly of the demographic data of individuals who apply for boards and commissions and for those who are appointed.
“The LGBTQ Public Service Law and Equality Illinois’ Boards and Commissions Initiative will contribute to a leadership path for LGBTQ individuals who want to engage in public service,” said Johnson. “In turn, those officials can share our experiences and stories as LGBTQ people. That helps when we work to advance policies that are inclusive, affirming, and fair.”
The organizations working with Equality Illinois to review applications include the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Association of Latino/as Motivating Action (ALMA), Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Lambda Legal, Legal Council for Health Justice, LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Phoenix Center of Springfield, and PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois.
via press release