U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) became the first G.O.P. Senator to co-sponsor the federal Equality Act this week. The comprehensive legislation would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans from discrimination.


In September 2015, an Equality Illinois-led delegation met with Sen. Kirk at his office in Washington, D.C. and encouraged him to support the Equality Act.

Senator Mark Kirk official portrait crop 1
"Sen. Kirk was the recipient of the Equality Illinois Freedom Award in 2014 because of his support for marriage equality. He was also behind earlier proposals that sought to end workplace discrimination," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.


"We are pleased that he now backs the Equality Act, which seeks to recognize comprehensive civil rights protections for LGBT Americans," Cherkasov said. "We hope other Senate Republicans will follow Senator Kirk's leadership and, in the best tradition of their party, allow each individual to flourish by prohibiting discrimination."


Sen. Kirk's endorsement joins that of Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat.


Last week, U.S. Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) became the first Republican in Congress to support the Equality Act.


The Equality Act amends existing federal civil rights laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to protect LGBT Americans in seven areas: employment, education, credit, housing, public services and space, federal funding, and jury service. By adding sexual orientation and gender identity to existing laws, LGBT Americans will be afforded the same equal protections as other protected groups.


There are no comprehensive federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans. Additionally, most states currently provide no legal protections for LGBT individuals.


Illinois has had non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals since 2005, when the state’s Human Rights Act was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, and housing. Since then, the state’s religious freedom statute and the Human Rights Act have co-existed and functioned to protect a person’s religious freedom while ensuring equal treatment of LGBT Illinoisans.


"Bipartisan support for LGBT equality measures is crucial. Here in Illinois, no measure recognizing LGBT rights has passed the General Assembly without Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill. And the signatures of Republican governors are on some of our most important pieces of equal rights legislation," Cherkasov said. "Senator Kirk is continuing in that tradition of the Land of Lincoln."

 

Press Release contributed to this article. 

 

 

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