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New Law To Protect Right To Serve On Juries For LGBTQ People

office of state Rep. Daniel Didech
State Rep. Daniel Didech is chief House sponsor of a law that will protect the right of LGBTQ people to serve on juries.

A new law will ensure individuals who are LBGTQ cannot be barred from serving on juries because of their sexual orientation.

The legislation adds to other reasons people cannot be excluded from juries such as gender, race, religion. ethnicity and economic status.  The measure passed the General Assembly without opposition.

“People who are in the LGBTQ community are disproportionally likely to come in contact with the criminal justice system, and it’s important that they, like everybody else, have access to a jury of their peers who can determine whether they’re guilty or not guilty,” said State Rep. Daniel Didech, a Buffalo Grove Democrat who was chief sponsor of the bill in the House. “And serving on a jury is a right, it’s a constitutional right and we shouldn’t be excluding people on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

LGBTQ individuals are at risk for victimization and are more likely to be arrested because of issues such as poverty, homelessness and discrimination, according to a recent report the from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Institute is think tank that focuses on LGBTQ legal issues and related public policy.

Meanwhile, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Antonio Romanucci said the addition of LGBTQ individuals to protected classes for jury service is a positive addition to Illinois law. He said the new law brings Illinois up to speed with the times.

“The LGBT community is recognized. It’s accepted. It’s integrated into our daily lives,’’ Romanucci said. “And they should not be discriminated against with respect to jury selection as anybody should not be at any time be discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, or religion. So this is absolutely a welcome change and necessary.”

California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin also have nondiscrimination laws protecting the right to serve on juries for individuals who are LBGTQ.

Mike Ziri, policy director for Equality Illinois, said LGBTQ people are much more likely to be victims of hate crimes. Transgender people — black women in particular — are much more likely to be murdered than the general population. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 26 transgender people were murdered in 2018; the majority of them were black women.

The law, Public Act 101-327, takes effect in January.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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