Diversity committee updates
Editor’s Note: Each year, the ISBA's diversity-related committees and section councils—consisting of the Standing Committees on Women and the Law, Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and Disability Law, as well as the Human Rights Section Council and the International Law and Immigration Section Council—are invited to share their group’s accomplishments and successes from the past year. Following are this year’s contributions.
Human Rights Section Council
By Shannon M. Shepherd
The Human Rights Section Council has had an active year. In September, we conducted a CLE program, “Restorative Practices in Illinois: Civil and Criminal Cases,” which is available online on the ISBA’s website. At the midyear meeting, we co-sponsored “The Judge,” a unique CLE about the documentary film of the same name.
We also have had some amazing guest speakers at our Section Council meetings. Debra Gittler, executive director of ConTextos, came to speak to us in February 2019 about the progressive work her organization is doing in Chicago to help prisoners, particularly juveniles, reintegrate into society. ConTextos started in 2011 in El Salvador to help students there learn to open up about the struggles they faced with trauma stemming from poverty, gang violence and migration. The program helped improve empathy, self-projection, and literacy skills for affected youth. In 2017, ConTextos came to Chicago, and adapted its program to assist Chicago’s violence and trauma-exposed youth in Cook County jails and in Chicago neighborhoods with high levels of violence and recidivism.
In April, Benjamin Wolff, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, came to speak to us about their ongoing important work in areas that affect human rights here in Illinois, such as worker’s rights and immigrant’s rights. Wolff discussed the ACLU’s history of ground-breaking legal action to protect the right to free speech and assembly, worker’s right to unionize and immigrant’s rights to due process. The ACLU is currently fighting the administration’s attempt to include a question on the census regarding a person’s citizenship status, as it is feared this question will deter people in mixed-status households from answering the census. The ACLU has found evidence that this question was proposed for discriminatory reasons, and it would affect important decisions such as representation in Congress and funding for public projects.
We are currently reviewing the nominees for our 2019 Gertz Award. The Gertz Award was established by the ISBA in 2000, and recognizes long-standing, continual and exceptional commitment by an individual or organization to the protection and advancement of human rights.
We are looking forward to another active year in 2019-2020!
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee
By Brian E. Fliflet
Addressing transgender legal issues, SOGI updated its brochure, “Rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgendered Persons.” This updated brochure provides valuable information about protecting LGBT persons in the areas of discrimination and employment, marriage and family law, estate planning and violence, and is available under the Consumer Legal Guide section of the ISBA website.
SOGI also is planning a live CLE program to take place in the Metro East area in the fall dealing with the complex issues of youth transitioning. Legal and medical experts will educate lawyers and judges about the many issues to consider in representing a client or handling a case.
Responding to the Trump administration ban on transgendered service members, SOGI voted to recommend that the ISBA Assembly adopt the ABA’s Resolution to Oppose the Ban on Transgendered Individuals in the Military. SOGI invited the Military Services Committee to support its efforts.
SOGI tracked and took positions on various legislation introduced in the General Assembly. Measures ranged from requiring instruction on LGBT history in public schools to extending the statute of limitations for filing certain complaints for violating the Illinois Human Rights Act and prohibiting nondisclosure agreements in instances of sexual harassment or sexual violence in the workplace.
The ISBA offers a number of awards in various practice areas. SOGI members reviewed the qualifications for nominations of each award and made nominations of deserving candidates that comprise or serve its constituency.
Continuing a proud tradition, SOGI represented the ISBA at the Springfield Pride Fest by sponsoring a booth, answering questions, and handing out legal pamphlets and promotional items.