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Sexual assault in schools, life-sustaining medical treatment, marriage license language all addressed in state bills

The House passed a Senate bill that allows for gender-neutral language on marriage certificates and allows for “consistency in the changing of gender on a marriage certificate, which may be appropriate with a transgender couple,” said state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago.

The Illinois House of Representatives in 2016.
The Illinois House of Representatives in 2016.
Seth Perlman/AP file

SPRINGFIELD — Schools would be required to report incidents of sexual assault to state education officials, witnesses would not be required when seriously ill patients make decisions about life-sustaining medical treatments, and gender-neutral language would be allowed on marriage certificates under bills passed by the General Assembly Wednesday.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill that requires Illinois schools to report incidents of sexual assault by one student against another to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Each year, the board would then report the number of incidents – statewide and broken down by school district — on its website.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Laura Murphy, promised that the yearly report would protect the identities of the victims.

“None of that [identifying information] would be listed,” the Des Plaines Democrat said. “It would just simply be a numerical system.”

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, rose to support the measure, saying Republicans had previously been concerned about the confidentiality of students in rural areas where only one or fewer incidents of sexual assault might occur yearly in a given school district.

To remove that opposition, Murphy said when there are fewer than 10 sexual assaults the state board will only report that there are fewer than 10 incidents instead of listing the exact number to protect confidentiality.

State Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines.
State Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

That bill advanced to the House.

The House passed a Senate bill dealing with medical procedures sought or declined by the seriously ill.

The bill makes changes to the Practitioner Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment law, including removing a requirement that a witness be present to sign the forms reflecting the decisions the patients make.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, said it will “bring Illinois into alignment with national standards” for the forms, which are signed medical orders that document the types of treatments seriously ill people want during end-of-life care, according to a state website.

Forty other states do not require a witness to be present during the signing of the treatment form.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston.
State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Some Republican members took issue with that removal.

State Rep. Randy Frese, R-Paloma, urged his colleagues to think of their own mother, father or significant other and whether they would want to be at their loved one’s side as a witness on the form, as a show of support.

“This is a very, very important document, and I think it behooves us to take into consideration the will of the person who has to sign that, and their loved ones who would also like to be there to sign it with them,” Frese said. “I would encourage further work on this, I know several other options were offered and declined. I think there’s probably work we could do to still reach a decision.”

Gabel said she wasn’t taking the issue lightly, but “people want to be able to make their own decisions, and sometimes having a witness is a barrier to making their own decision.”

The legislation passed 65 to 48 and heads to the governor’s desk.

The House also passed a Senate bill that allows for gender-neutral language on marriage certificates and allows for “consistency in the changing of gender on a marriage certificate, which may be appropriate with a transgender couple,” said sponsor state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago.

Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, addresses the General Assembly.
Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, addresses the General Assembly.
Sun-Times file

“Right now, many counties do already provide for these things, but some do not,” Williams said. “So, this simply provides consistency throughout the state, so that people can modify their marriage certificates to accommodate these very important changes to families.”

That measure passed 78 to 30, with one voting present. Having passed the Senate in April, the bill can now be sent to the governor’s desk.

Another Senate bill that allows for the hiring of security officers for the state’s appellate court system passed, 116 to one. The measure also heads for the governor’s desk.

Rachel Hinton reported from Chicago, Andrew Sullender from Springfield.