Cook County Board OKs Gender Identity Amendment
[CHICAGO, IL] Today Cook County amended the County's Human Rights Ordinance to include the classification of Gender Identity. The vote came less than two weeks after the Chicago City Council passed a similar amendment by a 40 to 9 vote majority.
With a population of 5.4 million people, Cook County is the largest county in Illinois and one of the largest counties in the United States. The new law affects the nearly 2.5 million people who live within Cook County outside of the City of Chicago. The law provides protection to the transgender and gender variant population by making it illegal to discriminate against a person on the basis of gender identity.
Sponsored by Board President John Stroger, and Commissioners Mike Quigley and John Daley, the ordinance was introduced at the Cook County Board meeting on November 7. The amendment was passed unanimously by the Cook County Human Relations Committee on November 18, and today was passed by the Cook County Board with a vote of 14 to 1 (and 1 voting present).
Miranda Stevens-Miller, Legislative Director of Illinois Gender Advocates, had been working for about two years with the office of Commissioner Quigley on the language and strategy of the ordinance. She said, "What a pleasure it has been to have worked with Mike Quigley on this issue. I cannot imagine a more decent and compassionate public servant."
Commissioner Quigley, Legislative Aide Laura Nelson, and Chief of Staff Jennifer Koehler worked tirelessly in the days following the passage of the Chicago amendment to line up the support behind the Cook County amendment. Commissioner Quigley had been hoping to pass the Cook County amendment simultaneously with the Chicago amendment, but certainly before the newly elected Board took over in December. The vote came at the end of a grueling four-hour County Board meeting, as the next to last item of business of the outgoing Board.
The new law amends Cook County's Human Rights Ordinance with the addition of Gender Identity, which is defined as "the actual or perceived appearance, expression, identity, or behavior, of a person as being male or female, whether or not that appearance, expression, identity or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth." The law provides protection from discrimination in employment, in public accommodations, in housing and in credit transactions.
Beth Plotner, Chair of Illinois Gender Advocates, said, "I am thrilled that Cook County so quickly joined with Chicago to provide the same rights and protections to our community. And as a suburban Cook County resident, I am overjoyed that I can finally stand up and say 'I have rights'."