Navigating Human Rights in Illinois: Progress and Challenges
Illinois, a diverse and vibrant state in the American Midwest, is home to a wide range of cultures and communities. While it has made significant strides in protecting and advancing human rights, it still faces numerous challenges. This article explores the state of human rights in Illinois, highlighting the progress made and the ongoing issues that demand attention.
1. Historical Background
Understanding the human rights situation in Illinois requires recognizing the state’s historical context. Illinois played a pivotal role in various civil rights movements, including the struggle for racial equality and LGBTQ+ rights. These historical events have left a lasting impact on the state’s human rights landscape.
2. Progress in Human Rights
Illinois has achieved notable progress in various aspects of human rights, including:
a. Civil Rights: The state has been at the forefront of the civil rights movement, with key figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and organizations like the Illinois chapter of the NAACP leading the way.
b. LGBTQ+ Rights: Illinois has implemented comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, legalized same-sex marriage, and expanded rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
c. Education and Healthcare Access: Efforts to improve access to quality education and healthcare have been successful, making these fundamental rights more attainable for all residents.
d. Criminal Justice Reforms: Illinois has taken steps to address issues related to mass incarceration and police misconduct, aiming for a more just and equitable criminal justice system.
3. Ongoing Human Rights Challenges
Despite the progress made, Illinois continues to grapple with a range of human rights challenges, including:
a. Racial Disparities: Racial disparities in areas like criminal justice, education, and healthcare persist, highlighting the need for comprehensive and sustained efforts to address systemic racism.
b. Gun Violence: The state faces a significant challenge in combating gun violence, particularly in cities like Chicago, which has been a focal point for discussions on public safety and gun control.
c. Housing Inequality: Access to affordable housing remains an issue for many Illinois residents, with high rent costs and housing discrimination impacting marginalized communities.
d. Immigration Rights: The treatment of immigrants, particularly undocumented individuals, continues to be a contentious issue in the state.
e. Workers’ Rights: While progress has been made, challenges in labor rights and workers’ protections, especially in low-wage sectors, require ongoing attention.
4. State and Local Initiatives
Illinois has enacted several state and local initiatives aimed at addressing human rights challenges. These include:
a. Criminal Justice Reforms: Efforts to reduce mass incarceration, address wrongful convictions, and improve police accountability are ongoing.
b. Education Equity: Initiatives to narrow educational disparities and increase funding for underserved schools are in progress.
c. Healthcare Access: Programs and policies are being implemented to improve healthcare access and affordability.
d. Gun Control Measures: Various gun control measures have been introduced to address gun violence and enhance public safety.
e. LGBTQ+ Protections: The state has reaffirmed its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights by expanding protections and support services.
5. Civil Society and Activism
Civil society organizations and grassroots activists in Illinois play a pivotal role in advocating for human rights. They work tirelessly to raise awareness, hold institutions accountable, and push for policy changes that advance human rights.
6. The Path Forward
To further improve the state of human rights in Illinois, several measures can be taken:
a. Addressing Racial Disparities: Comprehensive efforts to address systemic racism are crucial, focusing on criminal justice reform, education equity, and healthcare access.
b. Gun Violence Prevention: Combating gun violence requires a multi-pronged approach, including stricter gun control measures and investments in community-based violence prevention programs.
c. Affordable Housing: Implementing affordable housing policies, addressing housing discrimination, and increasing affordable housing options are essential.
d. Immigration Reform: Advocating for comprehensive immigration reform at the state and federal levels can protect the rights of immigrants and undocumented individuals.
e. Workers’ Rights: Strengthening labor rights, increasing the minimum wage, and improving worker protections can enhance the rights of Illinois workers.
Illinois has made commendable progress in advancing human rights, particularly in the areas of civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and access to education and healthcare. However, ongoing challenges related to racial disparities, gun violence, housing inequality, immigration, and workers’ rights demand continued attention and concerted efforts to ensure that all Illinois residents can enjoy their human rights and live in dignity and freedom. As the state navigates these challenges, the commitment of civil society, activists, and policymakers remains essential in achieving a more just and equitable society in Illinois.
Illinois Human Rights
The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits the discrimination of a person’s basic rights. Basic rights of citizens of Illinois include discrimination against Race, Color, Religion, National Origin, Ancestry, Age (40 and over), Sex, Marital Status, Order of Protection Status, Physical and Mental Disability, Military Status, Sexual Orientation (including gender-related identity), and/or Unfavorable Military Discharge. The Illinois Human Rights Act is dedicated to protecting its citizens from companies who might exclude hiring a person based on sexual orientation, disability, and/or unfavorable military discharge, protecting them from financial credit discrimination if a company fails to issue a credit card after an application has been properly completed, among other possible violations.
In July 2013, Exxon was brought up on charges of discrimination against sexual orientation by Freedom to Work. Freedom to Work is an organization designed to help prevent discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender Americans. The basis of the law suit is that two applications applying for the same position were sent to Exxon’s corporate office in Illinois. One application showed a higher GPA, longer work history, and that the applicant volunteered with a gay organization in college. This applicant was seen has being better qualified for the job, but was not awarded the position. Freedom to Work is also seeking federal awareness of this type of discrimination against human rights.
Progress has been made in Illinois as the state is considered as having some of the toughest Human Rights laws in the nation. However in May 2013, Illinois citizens, who are considered Conservatives, are facing the choice of losing their license, closing a business, or allowing marriage equity which is against their beliefs. Many institutions where marriages are preformed will either have to allow same-sex civil unions or close the business. This is a major issue with religious institutions where same sex unions are considered forbidden.
Violations of the Human Rights Act have been narrowed down to the following areas: employment, real estate transactions, financial credit, public accommodations, and education. The general process begins with the person who was discriminated against filing charges with the Illinois Human Rights Department. The charges are reviewed by the department. If there is evidence found of discrimination, the documentation is sent to the Human Rights Commission who will proceed with a hearing which is similar to a trial in court. At the close of the hearing, the Commission will make a ruling called an “Order and Decision”. Once the Order and Decision has been reached the violator, if found guilty, will have to follow the instructions for restitution based on the decision.
The Illinois Human Rights Act is one of the toughest in the nation providing security and equality for the citizens of Illinois. The legislature and citizens of Illinois are continuously to find the way looking in to the act help its citizens with their basic rights and prevent discrimination.