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In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Johnson & Bell highlights notable achievements in LGBTQ+ history and commemorates the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. In that decision, the Supreme Court affirmed LGBTQ+ individuals’ protection from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

In Bostock, the Court considered three separate cases of discrimination on the basis of individuals’ homosexuality or gender status alone.  Clayton County, Georgia, fired Gerald Bostock for conduct “unbecoming” of a county employee after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league.  Altitude Express fired Donald Zarda days after he mentioned being gay.  R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes fired Aimee Stephens after she informed her employer that she planned to “live and work full time as a woman.”  The Court held that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

Our state and local governments have made huge strides in the arena of LGBTQ+ rights in the past two decades.  The first Pride parade in Illinois took place in 1970, and since 2013, the parade attracts about 1 million attendees each year.  Neighborhoods throughout Chicago celebrate Pride Month with colorful displays that draw crowds and raise awareness.

The City of Chicago enacted its own anti-discrimination ordinance in 1988, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Cook County passed the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance in 1993, which prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. The Illinois Human Rights Act, passed in 2005, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is defined as an individual’s “acted or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.”  Same sex marriage was banned in Illinois by statue as recently as 1996, but in 2013, Governor Pat Quinn signed a law recognizing such marriages. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court, by the way, held in Obergefell v. Hodges that bans on same sex marriage anywhere in the United States are unconstitutional.  Polling from a 2019 study by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 74% of Illinois residents supported anti-discrimination legislation protecting LGBTQ people.

There are still many states in which LGBTQ+ individuals still lack protections for fundamental rights, and research indicates a correlation with poor health in the community and challenges still faced by this community. According to Healthy People 2020, research suggests that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals face higher rates of injuries, illnesses and deaths linked to years of societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of civil and human rights.

For more information about Johnson & Bell's Diversity Committee and its initiatives, please contact Committee Co-Chairs, Stephen P. Ellenbecker or Jessica K. Velez.