Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law on July 27 that repeals criminal penalties for people who transmit HIV to others.
House Bill 1063, by Champaign-Urbana Rep. Carol Ammons (D-103rd) and local Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) deletes language adopted in Illinois and many other states during the early days of the HIV epidemic that made it a felony for an individual to engage in certain activities such as unprotected sex, donating blood or tissue or sharing nonsterile intravenous needles knowing that he or she was infected with HIV.
HIV/AIDS had been the only communicable disease for which a person could face criminal liability.
“Research has shown these laws … don't decrease infection rates, but they do increase stigma,” Pritzker said. “It's high time that we treat HIV as we do other treatable transmissible diseases, thereby treating our residents with dignity and furthering our mission to end this epidemic in Illinois.”
At a bill signing ceremony at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., Pritzker said the legislation is one more step his administration is taking to ensure equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.
Other steps have included providing financial aid to transgender students who otherwise would not qualify for federal aid, requiring curriculum in public schools that includes contributions of the LGBTQ community, and expanding Medicaid to cover gender-affirming surgery.
Pritzker was joined at the ceremony by Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly who helped pass the bill, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and other LGBTQ rights activists.
Peters noted that the law in Illinois did not require that a person actually transmit HIV to be convicted of the crime, only that they engaged in activity that could have exposed another person to the virus.
“Too often, when faced with a challenge in society, we seek the hammer of criminalization,” he said. “When we faced the challenge of HIV, our country reacted out of fear, prejudice and hate, and with that brought down a violent and horrendous hammer. In turn, this caused more fear, pain and trauma for people living with HIV. It did nothing to bring safety or treatment or public health to our world.”
The bill decriminalizing HIV was one of four bills Pritzker signed Tuesday that were supported by advocates for LGBTQ rights.
Pritzker also signed two bills making it easier for transgender individuals to change their names and gender identity on marriage certificates.
Senate Bill 139 establishes a process for individuals to change the gender language on their marriage certificates while HB 2590 establishes a uniform standard that county clerks must adhere to for name changes on marriage certificates. Those bills were sponsored by Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-6th) and Rep. Ann Williams (D-11th), both from the North Side.
“Now that we have Marriage Equality in Illinois, those who marry in Cook County are able to choose how they identify on that special day,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in a statement.
“But documents from the past can cause painful reminders of past stigmatization, or present bureaucratic issues in other jurisdictions. With the signing of SB 139, Cook County is proud to stand with Governor Pritzker and the rest of Illinois as we align vital records with the self-affirming actions of our residents. Today, we take another step toward equity.”
In addition, Pritzker signed a HB 3709, which prohibits insurance companies from imposing restrictions on coverage of fertility medications and treatments, enabling LGBTQ individuals and single parents to receive those treatments under the same conditions as heterosexual individuals. It also reduces the waiting time to receive those treatments for women over age 35.
That bill was sponsored by North Side Rep. Margaret Croke (D-12th), and North Shore suburban Sen. Laura Fine (D-9th).
“For decades, our state insurance law discriminated against countless Illinoisans looking to welcome a child into their family, putting parenthood financially out of reach for same-sex couples, single women and others,” Croke said in a statement. “Setting things right and creating a more inclusive insurance law was long overdue.”
Herald staff contributed. Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.