Chicago Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawyer

Gay and Lesbian Rights in General

Gay rights, lesbian rights, and the rights of bisexuals have become the next major battleground in civil rights legislation. Legislative progress is slow. The 15th Amendment giving African-Americans the right to vote was passed in 1870, but it was nearly 100 years later that Title VII was passed. Gay rights and the rights of lesbians, bisexuals and others have long been ignored. But many states, including Illinois have concluded that the time for gay rights to receive equal treatment to the rights of women and minorities has come.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Illinois

Illinois’ sexual orientation anti-discrimination law went into effect January 1, 2006. This means that any acts of sexual orientation discrimination that took place prior to 2006 will not violate that law. But acts of sexual orientation discrimination taking place after 2005 will be in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act and claims can be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and pursued as any other discrimination complaint. This law includes not only gay rights, lesbian rights, and the rights of bisexuals and transgendered individuals, but also prohibits reverse discrimination, that is discrimination against heterosexuals.

But even where the gay rights movement has succeeded and a law against sexual orientation discrimination exists, there may be exceptions. Gay rights will take a second seat in religious scenarios. For example, a bonafide religious organization may be permitted to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in such circumstances.

Perhaps because of the strength of the gay rights movement in these areas, Cook County, Illinois as well as the cities of Chicago and Evanston, Illinois have had ordinances against sexual orientation discrimination for some time. Because so few ordinances exist in Illinois, the success of the gay rights movement in getting sexual orientation discrimination added to the Illinois Human Rights Act in 2005 is a landmark not only for gay rights and lesbian rights, but also for the rights of heterosexuals facing reverse discrimination.

Gay Rights Under Federal Law

Federal law does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, and although gay and lesbian rights issues are gaining more attention, any legislation related to gay rights becomes hotly contested. In April of 2007, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in Congress, though it is not anticipated to pass in the near future. Gay rights do get more support in North Eastern states, but sexual orientation discrimination laws are beginning to appear across other parts of the country as well.

What to Do

Although gay rights and lesbian rights are getting more recognition, for victims of sexual orientation discrimination, legal resource is often difficult. But discrimination should still be reported to the human resource department of the company. Many companies recognize gay rights and have policies against sexual orientation discrimination even if there are no laws in their jurisdiction prohibiting it. And of course if you are in a jurisdiction like Illinois that has laws against sexual orientation discrimination, you should contact a Chicago Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawyer for assistance in filing a claim.

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