As a woman and one of only three openly LGBTQ members in the General Assembly, equality is an extremely important and personal issue for me. I spent a large part of my career with the National Organization for Women, fighting against policies that seek to disempower women.
Since then, I have worked tirelessly to ensure equal treatment for all Illinoisans. In 2011, marriage equality was a centerpiece of my agenda, and in 2014, I spearheaded the effort to ban so-called “conversion therapy.” Passing that bill stands as one of my proudest accomplishments to date. In 2017, I worked with my colleagues to guarantee transgender individuals the ability to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates without a surgery requirement. That same year, we won a major victory in passing HB 40 into law, removing the state’s “trigger law” that would have outlawed abortion when the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade was released and providing access to abortion services for patients on Medicaid and state health insurance plans. In 2018, we ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, helping to enshrine protection for women in the US Constitution. In 2021, we amended the Illinois Human Rights Act by declaring that discrimination based on disability includes unlawful discrimination against an individual because of the individual's association with a person with a disability.
Despite our many victories, there is still much work to be done. This past year, we have seen an abominable rise in violence against marginalized communities. In response to this, I have continued my mission of advocating for equality for marginalized and underrepresented groups. Please take a look at the legislation that I have championed and sponsored during this past legislative session below.
The TEEACH Act
I co-sponsored this legislation which requires that Asian American history be taught in Illinois public schools. Especially in light of the recent rise in hate crimes against the Asian American community, I am proud to co-sponsor a bill like this. We must finally demand that Illinois public schools include studies of Asian American history in students’ curriculum — so that our children and future generations will have a strong understanding of Asian Americans’ contributions to our state and our nation.
Task Force on Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare
My colleague Representative Harper introduced this bill in the hopes of creating a Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare Task Force in Illinois. I have thrown my support behind this bill and the creation of this task force, which will carry the responsibility of examining the disproportionate impact that the foster care system has had on Black families and communities in our state.
Banning Discrimination Against Hairstyles
During this past legislative session, I co-sponsored this legislation, which bans discrimination against hairstyles in Illinois public, private and charter schools. It further prohibits schools from issuing policies or including any language in handbooks about hairstyles traditionally associated with race and ethnicity, including braids, dreadlocks, and protective hairstyles.
Expanding HIV Prevention Meds in Pharmacies
This historic bill that I chief sponsored will allow pharmacists to dispense HIV prevention drugs — including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to people at risk and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for people who may have been recently exposed to HIV — without a prescription. These lifesaving drugs are readily available but many communities face barriers to access from physicians. Now with the passage of this bill PrEP and PEP medications can be obtained from a local pharmacy. Pharmacists will be able to administer drugs, order lab tests, and consult with individuals related to HIV pre-exposure (PrEP) and post-exposure PEP drugs which will help us get to the goal of no one contracting HIV due to lack of access.
Repealed Parental Notification Act
This bill removes the requirement for minors to notify a guardian at least 48 hours prior to receiving an abortion. It also ensures that neither government officials nor medical practitioners will automatically notify a guardian for financial purposes, such as the use of insurance for medical procedures. This amendment is particularly vital for minors who may have abusive or absent family members. I am particularly proud of this bill, as protecting women’s right to choose remains one of my legislative priorities. To see a full list of Illinois abortion laws and protections compiled by the ACLU, click here.