Celebrating Illinois’ LGBTQ History

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Happy Pride! In honor of Pride Month, the Commission is highlighting some of the most important legal milestones for the LGBTQ community in Illinois, including Illinois’ place as the first state to decriminalize homosexuality.

In addition, we recently asked LGBTQ judges and lawyers across generations if the legal profession has made progress toward greater inclusion and what steps still need to be taken to embrace the LGBTQ community.


January 1, 1962 – Illinois becomes the first U.S. state to decriminalize homosexuality by repealing the state’s sodomy laws. This was part of a larger overall revision of the state’s criminal laws.

December 21, 1988 – Chicago’s City Council passes the Human Rights Ordinance, granting the LGBTQ community social equality under the law. The new city code not only protected people against discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin, sex, and religion but also sexual orientation, disability, type of military discharge, source of income, and parental and marital status.

1991 – 1992 –The Illinois state legislature amends section 12–7.1, changing the name of the offense of “Ethnic intimidation” to “Hate crime,” and adding ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, and physical and mental disability to the statute as the bases for a hate crime. In 1994, the words “actual or perceived” were inserted immediately before the group of classes by reason of which the hate crime occurred.

January 1, 2006 – The Illinois Human Rights Act is amended to bar discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in employment, housing, public accommodation, and certain financial transitions. Illinois became the 15th state to protect gay people from discrimination and the fifth state to protect transgender persons.

June 1, 2011 – The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act goes into effect allowing same-sex couples in Illinois to participate in civil unions.

November 5, 2013 – The Illinois House of Representatives passes the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, legalizing same-sex marriages and allowing the voluntary conversion of civil unions to marriages. The Act took effect on June 1, 2014.

June 26, 2014 – Gov. Pat Quinn signs an anti-bullying law that set in place policies and procedures to protect all Illinois school children, including LGTBQ youth.

July 20, 2015 – Gov. Bruce Rauner signs HB 3930 into law, adding gender identity to the Illinois hate crime statute.

August 20, 2015 – Gov. Bruce Rauner signs the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, prohibiting mental health providers from attempting conversion therapy on minors under 18. Illinois became the fifth jurisdiction in the U.S. to ban conversion therapy.

August 25, 2017 – Gov. Bruce Rauner signs House Bill 1785 and Senate Bill 1761 into law. House Bill 1785 updated the Illinois Vital Records Act making it easier for transgender and intersex people to amend the gender marker on their birth certificates. Senate Bill 1761 eliminated the “gay panic” defense, a legal strategy that blames the victim’s sexual or gender identity for the defendant’s violent reaction in murder cases. Illinois was the second state to have such a law.

April 5, 2019 – Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office announces that Illinois’ Medicaid program will begin covering gender-affirming surgeries for members.

June 30, 2019 – Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs an executive order to protect transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students in schools. The order established a task force to promote LGBTQ students’ rights in Illinois schools and to develop procedures for concerns such as names, pronouns, and dress codes.

August 9, 2019 – Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs HB 246, SB 1319, and SB 1378 into law. HB 246 amended the Illinois school code and provided that the textbooks purchased by schools in Illinois must include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act including LGBTQ persons. SB 1319 amended the Assisted Living and Shared Housing Act to prohibit unlawful discrimination of LGBTQ persons in assisted living situations. SB 1378 amended the Jury Act to ensure no person is excluded from a jury based on their sexual orientation.

August 23, 2019 – Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs HB 3534, allowing for gender-neutral markers on Illinois driver’s licenses and ID cards.

April 22, 2021 – The Illinois House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow businesses to offer multi-occupancy restrooms inclusive to all genders.

May 25, 2021 – The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill that would repeal a law that left HIV-positive people open to felony charges for failing to disclose their health status to partners before unprotected sex.

May 27, 2021 – The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill to repeal the 1973 Illinois infertility laws that do not legally cover same-sex couples for insurance purposes.

If you have any personal memories of these monumental changes for the Illinois LGBTQ community or milestones that we’ve missed, please share them in the comments below.

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