Real LGBTQ+ allyship means opposing public $ for schools that discriminate

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a month for celebration and remembrance of the struggle for equality and liberation. In the current political environment, wins and progress over the past half century cannot be taken for granted.

Across the country the civil rights of LGBTQ+ children, youth and adults are under attack and being stripped away, including the most basic rights to be seen, be included and be safe in one’s community. As we’ve seen in just the last year, we aren’t immune to anti-LGBTQ+ hate, harassment and even violence in Illinois—whether it's at a school, a bakery, a hospital or a library

In light of this, legislators and other elected officials sharing Happy Pride Month sentiments on social media, attending Pride parades and flag raisings are unequivocally a good thing. Public expressions of solidarity with marginalized groups matter right now! And our state has taken concrete steps to be a haven for LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity, with laws on gender-affirming care, LGBTQ+ history, inclusive sex ed and one just signed into law yesterday, a landmark anti-book banning bill

That said, it’s important to remind state reps, state senators and our governor that symbolism during June simply isn’t enough and that Illinois still has room to improve.

We need leaders to be year-round allies for the LGBTQ+ community by taking a public stance in opposition to a policy that funds homophobic and transphobic discriminationthe Illinois Invest in Kids voucher program.

Violations of Title IX and the Illinois Human Rights Act aren’t permitted in public schools. But, as IL-FPS has been documenting for months, religious schools getting public dollars via Invest in Kids can and do discriminate against LGBTQ+ students, families and staff.

Although spring session ended without the General Assembly extending Invest in Kids past the 2023-2024 school year, very few legislators have said publicly that they oppose this program, and the Governor continues to equivocate about whether he believes it should end.

Please make phone calls this week to ask your state rep, your state senator and Governor Pritzker to take a public stand calling for the discriminatory Invest in Kids voucher program to end.

Here’s what to say when you call:

“I’m a constituent and supporter of public schools. We are seeing a rollback of equality for the LGBTQ+ community across the country. Symbolic gestures of allyship during Pride Month aren’t enough. Please take a public stance calling for the Invest in Kids voucher program, which sends public dollars to private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ+ students, families and staff, to sunset as scheduled.

This is bigotry funded with our tax dollars, and it needs to end.”

Here’s a one-pager with examples of schools that are receiving Invest in Kids dollars while discriminating against LGBTQ+ students, families and staff that you can email to your reps. You can also share a post and tag your electeds on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

As we’ve mentioned before, across the country, a strident transphobic and homophobic agenda, an attempt to stamp out an accurate history of racial injustice, book bans, and demonization of teachers is being paired with a push to privatize the public school system via voucher schemes. These are two sides of the same coin. 

It is no coincidence that there are religious schools getting Invest in Kids dollars in Illinois that are also discriminating against those in historically- and currently marginalized groups including LGBTQ+ students. 

Education equity does not look like a two-tiered system where some schools receiving public dollars exclude whomever they want. Strong public schools are legally required to serve all kids, and we all benefit from that as a society, no matter our sexual orientation or gender identity.

Legislators and our governor standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ constituents during Pride Month need to act on their values throughout the entire year, and real allyship means committing to end the Invest in Kids program that funds discrimination with public tax dollars.