June 2010: The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) is founded by Jacob Meister, the first openly gay candidate for statewide office in Illinois, and a group of community activists. This group envisioned TCRA as an organization that would renew Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community activism and civic engagement throughout Illinois.
June 2010: The Workplace Project is launched to match members of the LGBT community who are victims of workplace discrimination with attorneys who concentrate in protection of LGBT rights under applicable state and local laws.
June 2010: The Voter Project is launched to identify, educate, and organize LGBT and allied voters that support TCRA’s core principle, that LGBT rights are fundamental civil rights. The voter project began with a list of 150,000 identified LGBT and allied regular voters. Through its Voter Project, TCRA helps to educate various constituencies and elected officials statewide on policy issues that affect the LGBT community and ways to influence or change those policies.
June 2010: The Intern Program is established to help train and mentor youth activists who will be the community leaders of tomorrow. Through the intern program, TCRA works with our interns to secure further employment, educational and community based opportunities after their internship ends. TCRA’s former interns have gone on to work for the White House, United States’ Congressional Black Caucus, as LGBTQ liaisons to public and private universities throughout Illinois, as political campaign managers and staff, and as lobbyists).
June – November 2010: TCRA Helps Establish Public Policy Platforms for political candidates at every level of government -- Federal, state and local. During the 2010 general elections, TCRA assumed a leadership role in establishing the LGBTQ policy platforms for many Federal, state and local campaigns throughout Illinois.
August 2010 – November 2010: TCRA Got Out The LGBT Vote in unprecedented numbers during the 2010 General Election and successfully turned-out over 70% of its identified LGBT and allied voters throughout Illinois. Our coordinated Get Out The Vote effort included targeted mail, targeted e-mail, and nearly 70,000 phone calls which lead to over 100,000 identified LGBTQ and allied voters turning out to the polls.
October 2010: TCRA Published the First Ever Non-Partisan LGBT Statewide Voter Guide which set forth the positions of general election candidates on matters of importance to LGBT voters in key races around Illinois.
October 2010: The Faith Project Is Launched to unite and empower people of faith to gain justice for the LGBT community through their faith and engagement. This Project utilizes outreach and events to promote dialogue and inspire action. Resources and materials are shared with faith communities and individuals of faith to influence progress and attain our goals. The many disadvantages experienced by the LGBT community provide a compelling reason why all people of faith must work together in order to ensure equality for LGBT peoples. We work with welcoming faith communities and organizations, as well as clergy to open communication and build grassroots coalitions between the LGBTQ civil rights movement and communities of faith.
November - December 2010: Civil Union Act Passed! Twelve TCRA Staff, Legislative Consultants and volunteers descended on Springfield for nearly two weeks in a concerted and highly successful effort to pass Illinois’ civil union legislation. As part of this effort, TCRA worked closely with legislators and initiated over 19,000 targeted constituent contacts to swing districts in the House of Representatives, a strategy which is widely regarded as instrumental in final passage of the civil union legislation.
December 2010: TCRA Works to Repeal DADT. TCRA pressured the Illinois’ U.S. Senate Delegation to support repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ During debate on this historic legislation, TCRA implemented a targeted constituent call-to-action program that generated approximately 55,000 voter contacts and caused so many calls to Illinois’ Senator Mark Kirk’s Washington office that his Capitol phone lines “crashed.
January 2011: The Chicago LGBTQ Citywide Coalition is Formed with TCRA as one of its founding organizations. The coalition was initially formed to host the first ever Chicago Mayoral Candidate Forum on LGBT Issues. The Coalition’s leadership team was intentionally structured to include minority community organizations, and serves to bring LGBT inclusion in all policy matters, as well as to show that the LGBTQ community lives in every neighborhood across the City, not just in “Boystown” and the North Side.
March 2011: New Leadership Arrives At TCRA as its Governing Board expands its already diverse group of LGBTQ activists from across Illinois including Elgin, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana and Peoria, and a variety of different faiths, gender identities and straight civil rights allies. The board elected a new Executive Director, Anthony Martinez.
March – April 2011: TCRA Scores A Huge Victory in Schuyler County, Illinois (population 7,544). The Schuyler County Sheriff posted an entry on Facebook, commenting about one of his employees’ photos that “…his mouth is open, his glasses are off, he's ready, little fag Jew boy.” TCRA filed a formal complaint with the Schuyler County Board and after TCRA’s Executive Director, Anthony Martinez testified at a County Board meeting, the Board mandated discrimination training for all county employees. The incident was covered extensively by various state, national and international media and was referred to by local residents as ‘the most controversial incident in the County since desegregation.’
June 2011: TCRA Launches Its Families United Project, an exploration of LGBT families in Illinois. The goal of the Families United Project is to gain equality for every family in Illinois through the use of social media, political advocacy and by building community. Through the Families United Project, TCRA seeks to engage all people who believe that every family in Illinois deserves to be equal.
June 2011: TCRA Hosts A Mass Civil Union Ceremony called “Unite with Pride: A Community Celebration” in honor of the Illinois Civil Unions Bill. Eight clergy from the Faith Project blessed the 54 couples, followed by two Circuit Court Judges who performed the civil union. Over 500 guests, community members, elected officials, press, family, friends and civil union supporters witnessed the ceremony at the Chicago History Museum and then joined the couples for a champagne toast and full reception with flowers, décor, food, beverage, photos and music provided by a variety of local sponsors.
July 2011: TCRA Joins the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition – The LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition is a collaborative effort of various organizations serving primarily lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations and institutions advocating for immigrant rights.
September 2011: TCRA Co-hosts Immigrant Rights Forum – The LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition hosted it’s first LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Forum featuring Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley in addition to organizations working on immigrant rights throughout Chicago and Illinois.
October 2011: TCRA Launches New Blog Exploring Queer Culture and Activism - As young LGBT people use Queer as an identifier, In Our Words is an exciting project that seeks to bridge the queer non-profit, activist and cultural sectors, in ways that are inclusive and affirming. This blog will serve as a narrative of our shared history, featuring the stories, creative works and voices of queer writers, young and old, calling for change within and outside of the LGBT community.
November 2011: TCRA Confronts the CTA on Bigotry. After an employee of the Chicago Transit Authority threw off two men for kissing, TCRA has assumed representation for the couple and is working to resolve the matter.
November 2011: TCRA Helps to Ensure LGBT Remains in Advisory Council Name. TCRA helped to facilitate meetings with community members and Chicago Aldermen to ensure that the term ‘LGBT was included in the new advisory council that had been merged with the Advisory Council on Women’s Issues. TCRA also took part in a letter writing campaign that was initiated by the Chicago LGBT Citywide Coalition.
November 2011: Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association Honors TCRA – TCRA was recognized at the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA) gala for the work that TCRA did to pass the civil union legislation. The Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association is a vital community organization for the greater Chicagoland area, and TCRA was proud to have their work recognized by this group.
December 2011: Confronting the Cardinal . The Faith Project has taken the lead on asking the Cardinal to apologize for his comments . Members of The Faith Project have wrote personal letters to the Cardinal asking for an apology and telling him why his comments are hurtful. TCRA waged an aggressive PR campaign to counter the Cardinal’s harmful words.
January 2012: TCRA Works to Save the Civil Unions Bill – When the Civil Unions legislation was passed in Illinois, anti-LGBT organizations like the Illinois Family Conference and Illinois Family Institute attempted to gut the bill. Despite right wing opposition to its passage, TCRA worked with legislators and community leaders to ensure the bill would grant Illinois’ couples the benefits they deserve and take one more crucial step toward marriage equality.
January 2012: Cardinal George Apologizes for KKK Comments - After voicing discriminatory views on the LGBTQ community, in which he compared the LGBT movement for civil rights to the Ku Klux Klan, Cardinal George issued an official apology for his statements . This retraction was made after weeks of scrutiny and backlash by the media, including TCRA, who led the Chicago and Illinois-wide responses to George’s remarks.
January 2012: Insurance Committee Extends Benefits to Civil Union Couples – After initially deciding to deny benefits to couples engaged in civil unions, the Springfield Joint Labor/Management Insurance Committee reversed its decision and voted unanimously to extend benefits to couples in a civil union. The Civil Rights Agenda worked with multiple city council members, other interested parties and citizens to identify why the committee made this decision, and further, to ensure that the committee reversed its decision.
February 2012: Marriage Equality Bill Introduced in Illinois – TCRA ally and Rep. Greg Harris introduced a Marriage Equality bill in the Illinois House of Representatives, a major step to providing rights and benefits to same sex couples. TCRA is working tirelessly to ensure that Illinois recognizes that all families deserve to be equal by working aggressively with legislators to build a strong coalition around the Marriage Equality bill.
February 2012: Bill to Include “Gender Identity” in Hate Crime Law – TCRA ally Kelly Cassidy filed a bill in the Illinois House of Representatives that would amend the clause defining hate crimes in the Criminal Code of 1961 to include “gender identity, military status and immigration status.” The Civil Rights Agenda authored the bill and is working with other organizations to ensure passage this year.
March 2012: Rick Garcia Joins TCRA as Senior Policy Advisor – Long-time community leader Rick Garcia joined The Civil Rights Agenda as a Policy Advisor and Director of The Civil Rights Agenda’s new project for same gender marriage rights, aptly named, “Equal Marriage Illinois.”
March 2012: TCRA Granted 501(c)(3) Status - TCRA is granted our tax exempt status by the IRS.
April 2012: Illinois Anti-Adoption Bill Killed in Committee – A bill that would have allowed religious organizations to deny gay couples adoption and foster care services was voted down in the Illinois Senate committee. TCRA worked to mobilize opponents of the measure earlier this week, which included The American Civil Liberties Union, Family Equality Council and the Log Cabin Republicans.
May 2012: TCRA Meets to Change Gender Markers on Illinois Birth Certificates – TCRA worked with the Illinois Department of Health, Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Attorney General’s Office to make it easier for transgender individuals to get accurate birth certificates reflecting their gender. As part of its work on pursuing equality for transgender individuals, TCRA partnered with Illinois Gender Advocates.
June 2012: TCRAConducts Training at Pekin Penitentiary – As part of its programming for LGBTQ pride month, the Pekin Penitentiary in Pekin, Illnois invited Rick Garcia to conduct a training for their staff around LGBTQ issues in the workplace. Conducted through the prison’s Diversity Office, Garcia has already agreed to work with them again next year and is setting up a program to hold similar trainings in Marion and Dixon later this year.
August 2012 TCRA Files Complaint Against Chick-fil-A – TCRA filed multiple complaints against Chick-fil-A with The Illinois Department of Human Rights. Among other things, the complaints alleged that Chick-fil-A’s “intolerant corporate culture” violates Illinois law, specifically Section 5-102(B) of the Human Rights Act, which prohibits a “public accommodation” from making protected classes “unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable.” This was a major first step in the push to make Chick-fil-A an inclusive corporation for all of our citizens and focusing the public backlash against the company toward creating change on the issue.
September 2012 Chicago Police Department Announces Transgender General Order – After working with Lakeview Action Coalition on this effort since last year, the Chicago Police Department adopted a General Order for the treatment of Transgender Individuals while in CPD custody. Although TCRA still has a few concerns with the legislation, TCRA is meeting with the Administration and CPD to ensure proper training and implementation.