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Letter and Resource to Public Officials on Non-Discrimination in Public Spaces

December, 2022: Governor Pritzker, Attorney General Raoul, and IDHR Director Bennett Partner to Address Public Officials’ Safety Concerns Over Anti-LGBTQ+ Violence and Harassment

Pritzker, Raoul, and Bennett Remind Public Officials to Enforce Non-Discrimination Policies in Public Spaces

In a letter dated December 22, 2022, Illinois Attorney General Raoul, Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) Director Jim Bennett highlighted statutory and constitutional obligations and also encouraged public officials to work with law enforcement to monitor and address safety concerns. Raoul, Pritzker and Bennett explained some public officials have faced threats or harassment concerning LGBTQ+ events or have been pressured to deny LGBTQ+ events due to fears of civil disturbance or public safety concerns. However, Raoul said public officials must also ensure targeted groups are not penalized or excluded from public spaces.

“I understand many public officials are concerned about preserving public safety within parks, libraries and schools, so it is important they understand LGBTQ+ protections with the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA),” Attorney General Raoul said. “Discrimination has no place in our society and violence toward those advocating for LGBTQ+ equality should not be the answer. I am happy to work with Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Rights to ensure Illinois public officials can fulfill their obligation to protect the rights of all Illinoisans to safely access public spaces regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Here in Illinois we welcome everyone—regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, documentation status, and economic bracket. And recently, members of our LGBTQ+ community have been under threat due to targeted harassment solely based on who they love and how they present. Well, that’s not the Illinois I know—we’re better than that,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “That’s why, alongside Attorney General Kwame Raoul and IDHR Director Jim Bennett, I sent a letter to all of our state’s local public officials to remind them that Illinois has clear non-discrimination policies to protect and safeguard LGBTQ+ Illinoisans in public spaces.

Let me be clear: transphobic and homophobic rhetoric from public officials throughout the nation is putting our LGBTQ+ communities in danger, and we will not stand for it.”

As Director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights, protecting the fundamental right of all our residents to safely access public spaces is of paramount importance,” said IDHR Director Jim Bennett. “Members of our LGBTQ community deserve and have a right to be safe, out and proud – in a park, going to the library or marching in a parade without facing threats or violence.”

In the letter, Attorney General Raoul said his office has the authority to initiate civil hate crimes lawsuits against people who harass, intimidate or commit crimes based on protected characteristics like sexual orientation and gender identity. Raoul’s office can also investigate patterns of discrimination under the IHRA.

The letter explains that under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA):

  • Public accommodations and officials must not engage in discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Events cannot impose additional fees solely because of the gender identity or sexual orientation of its organizers or intended audience.
  • Harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation also violates the IHRA if it is severe or pervasive enough to deny a person equal access to the facilities, goods, or services of the public official or public accommodation.

The letter also explains public officials may not constitutionally shut down certain types of protected speech or speakers just because they are controversial, or because of fears that others may respond violently to those messages

To report discrimination in a public accommodation, contact IDHR by email, by phone at (312) 814-4320, or learn more about how to file a charge of discrimination with IDHR.