CHICAGO, Ill. – Equality Illinois' Jubilee Year is now underway, including plans for the 25th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, February 6, 2016 at the Hilton Chicago.


The Gala, annually the largest LGBT event of its kind in the Midwest, is expected to draw more than 1,400 guests, including nearly 100 public officials and many more community VIPs.EqILgala


To help Equality Illinois celebrate its Silver Anniversary year and the work behind its quarter century of advancing LGBT rights, four companies have agreed to become Jubilee Sponsors--BMO Harris Bank, Coca-Cola, MillerCoors and United Airlines. Their contributions will fund statewide educational and outreach activities throughout 2016 and help Equality Illinois chart its course for the future.


"These companies have all demonstrated leadership in building LGBT-inclusive businesses and supporting the LGBT community," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. "We thank them for helping to make possible our ongoing work to build on our past successes."


First called the Illinois Federation for Human Rights when it was founded in 1991, the organization was renamed Equality Illinois in 2000. It grew out of the successful campaign to pass the LGBT-inclusive Chicago Human Rights Ordinance in 1988 and the recognition that similar protections were essential throughout Illinois and that LGBT Illinoisans needed a strong voice to represent them. Equality Illinois is now the state's oldest and largest advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans.


Equality Illinois co-founder Art Johnston recalled recently what the conditions used to be in the state.


"If you went out in the 1970s to a bar where gay and trans people gathered, there was a chance that you wouldn't get home that night, that the bar would be raided, you would get arrested, the media alerted, and the next day you would find yourself described in your hometown paper as a regular at a 'pervert' bar. And then, you could--legally--get fired from your job," Johnston recalled.


"That may sound like ancient history. But as recently as 2005, in most of our state, you could be legally fired from your job, legally denied an apartment or service at a restaurant if the person in charge didn't like LGBTQ people."


Current issues include expanding transgender rights, defending against sweeping religious exemptions, embracing racial and juvenile justice as LGBT issues, and supporting the passage of the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Equality Act in Congress.


"More than simply a year of celebration, we will be highlighting and working on these and other issues throughout our Jubilee Year to remind people that much hard work remains for us to achieve full equality," Cherkasov said.


More information on the gala can be found at eqil.org/gala.

 

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