Accountability is hot topic at LGBTQ+ forum attended by Sen. Dave Koehler and BN mayors

Bloomington and Normal Mayors Mboka Mwilambwe and Chris Koos joined State Senator Dave Koehler to discuss inclusivity and equality at a town hall forum hosted Tuesday night by LGBTQ advocacy groups +. Prairie Pride Coalition and Illinois Equality.

Koehler, a Democrat from Peoria, is up for re-election in Illinois’ 46th District, which will include much of the Bloomington-Normal area starting next year. Illinois State Representatives Dan Brady and Keith Sommer along with Sens. Jason Barickman and Sally Turner were invited to the forum but did not attend.

City Hall opened by congratulating the Illinois General Assembly for passing two bills aimed at improving health care and quality of life for LGBTQ+ Illinois.

The first invoice HB4430will allow pharmacists to prescribe, dispense and administer HIV prevention drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

According to the CDC, 65% of HIV diagnoses in 2019 in the United States occurred through male-to-male sexual contact, with blacks and Latinos disproportionately affected by the disease at rates of 42% and 29% of diagnoses respectively. In the same year, 1,252 people in Illinois were diagnosed with HIV.

The second invoice SB3490will represent LGBTQ+ seniors on the Illinois Council on Aging to “investigate, analyze and study health, housing, financial, psychosocial, home and community services, assisted living and the long-term care needs of LGBTQ seniors and their caregivers.

A 2016 report from the Williams Institute estimates that there are 2.4 million LGBTQ+ Americans over the age of 50, and that number is expected to double by 2030. The report also found that older LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to be socially isolated and less likely to receive informal care because they are less likely to have children. LGBTQ+ seniors are also relatively less financially stable than other Americans due to a lifetime of discrimination from employers, limiting opportunities to build savings.

Both of these bills will become law pending Governor JB Pritzker’s signature.

Focus on responsibility

When the forum opened for public comment, the hot topic was accountability.

The first commenter suggested that lawmakers give the laws “bite” after noting that some public schools are posting Illinois’ Inclusive Curriculum Act of 2019 that requires them to teach contributions to the history of the State and United States made by LGBTQ+ people.

” Its pretty hard. You probably have to go through a legal process if you really want to force the issue,” Koehler said. “But remember that school board members are elected. I think you have to pressure them like you would pressure me or the mayor.

Both mayors encouraged people to take matters into their own hands and run for school board positions if they were unhappy with the situation.

The next commentator, McLean County Board Member Beverly Bell, suggested that there should be some sort of reward for transgender people who experience abuse from law enforcement and government officials. other officials.

“It’s not just the public sector, it’s also the private sector you’re talking about,” Koehler said. “I don’t know how you apply sensitivity, but there needs to be better training and better guidelines that are put in place on this.”

“Our (police) department strives to be very professional, but I wouldn’t say we are 100% successful 100% of the time. We don’t,” Koos said. “But it’s important that we know what this problem is so that we can tackle it head-on.”

“Stop me at the mall, the grocery store, and tell me what’s going on, because I’ve had a really good experience in this community,” Mwilambwe said, “and my goal is to make sure that everyone has the same awesome experience.”

“What we really need are watchdogs,” said Dave Bentlin, board member of the Prairie Pride Coalition of Bloomington-Normal. “If you see things happening, let us know, let Equality Illinois know, so we can follow up and help you find the answers, help you find accountability for the people who abuse us in the community.”

sergeant. Kiel Nowers of the Bloomington Police Department’s Community Engagement Unit then rose from his seat in the audience to address those next to him.

“There’s a long history of mistrust between the police and the LGBT community, and it’s well deserved, unfortunately,” Nowers said. “We have a long way to go to earn your trust, but that’s kind of what our job is now.”

Bell rejected those assurances, revealing that during her tenure at the normal police department she suspected she had been banned for work in the cemetery after coming out of the closet, but she said her attempts to escalate the problem “have fallen through.” in deaf ears. ”

The latest commenter, a recent transplant from California who identified as transgender, suggested that Bloomington and Normal are working to project their images as inclusive communities, saying they feared having to go back into the closet because they don’t didn’t know what to expect. Arrivals.

Members of the human relations councils of each municipality present in the audience said that they had previously tried to lobby for admission to the Human Rights Campaign Equality Index, but their efforts were thwarted. Mwilambwe and Koos waved to reopen those efforts. Of the nine Illinois cities currently indexed, Chicago ranks first with 100 points out of a possible 100, while Carbondale ranks lowest with 49.

“I think it’s very helpful to go through this process, to go through the Equality Index process and find out where we are compared to other communities like Peoria and Springfield and Champaign-Urbana” , said Dave Bentlin. “I think it also pushes people to do better. Nobody wants to have a bad report, you know? They want to work hard to show that this community can live up to the diversity it presents itself as embracing.

Jessica C. Bell