Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed into law measures to ban the so-called gay panic defense in criminal proceedings and make it easier for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates, but he vetoed a bill that bars potential employers from asking job applicants about their previous salary.
In total, the governor acted on more than 100 bills Friday, days before lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol Monday to consider a tentative agreement to change Illinois’ school funding system.
The governor gave his approval to most of the bills on which he acted Friday, including measures designating milkweed as the official state flower, cycling as the state exercise and labeling shelter dogs and cats as the official state pets. He also approved making April 16 Esther Golar Day in memory of the state representative from Chicago who died in 2015.
He also signed legislation that would make it easier for transgender people to change the sex designation on their birth certificates.
Formerly, state law said transgender people could only change their birth certificates if a doctor said they had transition surgery. The new law would allow for a change if a medical or mental health provider confirms someone has received “clinically appropriate” treatment. A range of practices including hormone therapy would be covered, using a similar standard that applies to U.S. passports.
Supporters said people were often denied coverage for preventive care like pap smears and prostate exams if their birth certificates and identities don’t match, saying the previous surgery requirement was an unnecessary burden.
“It’s basic common sense that a person’s gender should be recognized and respected, whether or not that person has had any particular kind of surgery,” John Knight, director of the LGBT and HIV Project for the ACLU of Illinois. “I’m extremely proud of our state for taking this important step to modernize a law that has been a significant barrier in transgender people’s lives for many, many years.”
Rauner also approved legislation banning what’s known as the “gay panic” defense for defendants accused of murder. Effective January, defendants will no longer be allowed to argue they acted out of passion after learning a victim was gay. People accused of first-degree murder won’t be able to use that claim as a mitigating factor to reduce their possible punishment. And sexual orientation can’t be considered provocation for second-degree murder.
Another measure he signed makes it possible for law enforcement to prosecute an out-of-state drug dealer for a death caused by that drugs sold by that dealer. The law is named for Evan Rushing, a man from Glen Carbon who died from an overdose of drugs he’d bought from a dealer in St. Louis, according to Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, the bill’s chief sponsor.
Meanwhile, Rauner rejected a measure that would prevent employers from asking job applicants for prior wage or salary history unless it’s already public information or the applicant is moving within a company.
Supporters argued the proposal would help narrow the wage gap between men and women. Rauner said he supported that effort but said Illinois should follow a model put in place by Massachusetts, which prevents such inquiries before offering an applicant a job and requires equal pay for employees whose jobs are comparable.
Rauner also vetoed a measure that would have imposed new requirements on servicers of student loans. It was introduced by state Sen. Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat who is running for governor.
Biss had presented the bill as an attempt to “provide as much protection as possible for student borrowers, a population that frequently is targeted by bad actors in the student loan industry.”
In his veto message, Rauner wrote that “while the intent of this bill to support struggling student-loan borrowers is laudable, the bill, as written, encroaches on federal government’s responsibilities and would add confusion to the already complex student loan process.”
Another measure the governor approved would allow the secretary of state to sell advertising on vehicle registration reminders that are mailed out to millions of homes each year.
The idea is to help bring in money to cover the cost of mailing the notices, which adds up to roughly $450,000 a month in postage. The state had to temporarily suspend the mailed notices in 2015 amid the budget impasse.
Rauner also approved a measure to create an Illinois Muslim Advisory Council.