Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and other LGBT advocacy organizations are dropping support for a police transgender protections ordinance introduced in City Council last month due to compromises made to the language, which they say, damaged the effectiveness of the policy.
“The proposed ordinance that was introduced in March removed all major enforcement and accountability components that we had previously discussed were essential to include,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois in a Tuesday press release. “Because the proposed ordinance as it currently exists has no real teeth to it, Equality Illinois and our coalition partners have decided to withdraw our support.”
EQIL and Lambda Legal are joined by Center on Halsted in no longer supporting the current iteration of the ordinance, introduced by 1st Ward Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno in City Council March 14.
“The legislative process is never perfect,” said 1st Ward Director of Legislative Affairs and Communications Matthew Bailey. “We introduced as strong of an ordiance as we possibly could. We are sorry that EQIL feels that way and we understand their decision.”
Months before its introduction, the ordinance language contained provisions for an overseeing body dubbed as the Police Transgender Issues Commission and provided that Chicago Police would adapt policies to educate officers on the proper treatment of transgender individuals when taken into custody. Initially, the body was planned to comprise both police officers and active members in the transgender and transgender advocacy community.
In its current form, the ordinance provisions would be overseen by existing City Council committees. Specifically, police would have to report to the Human Relations and Public Relations committees, instead of a new, transgender issues committee or commission. Several iterations of the bill were drafted before it was introduced by Moreno, who told Chicago Phoenix at the time of introduction, that the bill introduced was “strong” and was a “good compromise” with police.
Moreno also called the establishment of the ordinance a “human rights issue.”
Christopher Clark, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal, said that although they agree with EQIL in not supporting the current status of the ordinance, they were not able to review the press release issued by EQIL Tuesday. The phrase “withdraw support” of the ordinance used in the release was ambiguous, he said.
“The ordinance in its current form is not strong enough because key provisions like training and enforcement that we think are important are missing,” Clark said. “Passing something weaker and then strengthening it later is not always the best way to go. You might not be there later.”
The Civil Rights Agenda worked closely with Moreno in crafting the initial drafts of the ordinance and supported its introduction last month; however, noting that the iteration introduced could be significantly different by the time it would reach the mayor’s desk to be signed, according to Rick Garcia, TCRA’s policy advisor.
EQIL noted alongside their announcement of their withdrawal of support that TCRA Executive Director Anthony Martinez “offered praise and validation” for the bill, and that it was not shared by EQIL and its partners.
“I would not support the ordinance as it currently stands,” said Martinez in response. “Additional steps will be taken to propose an amendment to the ordinance.”
Martinez added that TCRA was in discussions with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Office and Ald. Tom Tunney’s (44th Ward) over language in the ordinance up until the last 12 hours before it was introduced in City Council.
“We were not privy to those conversations, so we didn’t know what was being introduced until after the council meeting,” he said. “We are working closely with the Lakeview Action Coalition to propose an amendment that would strengthen the ordinance so that would include community oversight. We are also looking at other methods to provide oversight.”
Garcia, who founded Equality Illinois and recently joined TCRA responded with his reaction via email to the organizations’ withdrawal.
“Anthony and I and the ACLU tried our hardest [sic] get the teeth into that ordinance,” Garcia wrote. “Anthony should not be blamed for the lack of support from the Mayor’s office.”
Equality Illinois plans to continue working with police officials to create a more robust policy, according to a press release.
Chicago Phoenix will update as more information becomes available.