All Illinois residents deserve equal protection and access to benefits under our laws. Under our current legal system, however, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are discriminated against by legal protections and benefits that are tied to marriage laws. Illinois' parenting laws also fail to provide the same legal protection for lesbian and gay parents they do for heterosexual couples.
I support full equality in marriage. Equal marriage is the civil rights fight of our lifetime. It is no longer a coastal issue. It is a Midwestern issue. In April, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry. A week later, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize equal marriage. Illinois should be no different. Same-sex couples deserve family equality and I will continue to fight for that right. This is an issue of equality for citizens of Illinois and also a matter of human rights.
In 2009, I introduced SB 1354, a bill which changes an unjust Illinois regulation which only allows transgender persons who received surgery in the United States to change the gender portion of their birth certificate. This bill would allow those who received surgery outside of the United States to also change their birth certificate. I support removing surgical requirements for transgender person who wish to change their birth certificate.
I also introduced SB245 which establishes domestic partner survivor pension benefits for retired teachers. This bill would allow a teacher to designate a domestic partner, including a same sex domestic partner to receive their pension benefits when the teacher dies. I am looking to expand this bill to judges in the next legislative session.
I also took pro-active steps to advocate for LGBT rights outside legislative action. I campaigned for state funding on behalf of WTTW 11's Out and Proud in Chicago, BEHIV, and Test Positive Aware Network and to obtain financial support for resources to serve individuals with HIV/AIDS including numerous LGBT organizations within the 7th District.
I hired the first openly gay legislative assistant in Springfield and instigated the General Assembly to provide domestic partner benefits to its employees.
Women's rights to access reproductive health care are being eroded. Mandatory parental notification laws create very difficult personal situations for teens while research shows these laws do not decrease teen pregnancy. Current laws also make it more difficult for low-income women to obtain abortions by not allowing the funding except in the case of rape, incest, life endangerment or to protect a women's health and by not covering abortion services for state employees in most cases. I support the Reproductive Justice Act to assure women's right to health care was preserved.
Violence against women is a public health problem affecting more than 32 million Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control. Whether domestic violence occurs in the form of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or intimidation and threats of violence, I believe providing support to victims of domestic abuse is critical. As a result, I introduced strong changes to the Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act as Senate Bill 1770. This legislation offers additional protections to victims of domestic violence in Illinois by offering unpaid leave to seek services and resources including medical aid or legal assistance.
And immigrants and refugees do not have access to an array of rights and services. It is appalling how immigrants are used to polarize fear in the general population and treated with disrespect. Dollars for immigration integration programs, English classes, and citizenship classes are too limited. Many immigrants can not access health care, insurance, and other fundamental rights.
I introduced and passed Senate Bill 1283 which would make the Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled funding program a permanent state program. This program provides a small grant to those refugees and asylees who were victims of torture.
I also have advocated on behalf of funding for the many immigration and refugee programs in my district, including aid programs and outreach and interpretation programs.