SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law Tuesday that repeals criminal penalties for those who have HIV and engage in activities that may cause others to be exposed to it.
House Bill 1063, sponsored by state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, and state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, 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 who knew they were infected with HIV to engage in activities such as unprotected sex, donating blood or tissue, or sharing nonsterile intravenous needles.
“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 in Chicago, 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 legislative leaders who helped pass the bill, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and other LGBTQ rights activists.
Peters noted that the state law 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,” Peters 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 possible HIV transmission was one of four Pritzker signed Tuesday that were supported by advocates for LGBTQ rights.
He signed two others 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 House Bill 2590 establishes a uniform standard that county clerks must adhere to for name changes on marriage certificates.
Those bills were sponsored by state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz and state Rep. Ann Williams, both Chicago Democrats.
In addition, Pritzker signed House Bill 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 state Rep. Margaret Croke, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview.
“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. “Setting things right and creating a more inclusive insurance law was long overdue.”