Springfield, IL —
The Illinois Senate Tuesday turned down a bill that would have encouraged anti-bullying programs in schools, after conservative religious groups argued that such programs could be used to promote homosexuality.
"There are anti-bullying programs that have an agenda, to only protect one class of individuals," state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Highland) said Tuesday during floor debate.
House Bill 5290, sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), failed on a 29-12 vote in the Senate.
"While I'm disappointed that the bill didn't pass today, we are not going to give up and have another chance to pass it once we reconfirm our supporters," Cassidy told ChicagoPride.com.
The Illinois Family Institute and Concerned Christians of America said that the law would "promote unproven, non-factual beliefs about the nature and morality of homosexuality and transgenderism."
Although the bill was supported by Equality Illinois and The Civil Rights Agenda, two Chicago-based gay rights advocacy groups, the anti-bullying bill did not mention homosexuality.
"This bill is now and always has been about putting an end to all types of bullying in schools regardless of a child's race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation," Equality Illinois Director of Public Policy Randy Hannig told ChicagoPride.com.
Cassidy said, "Protecting kids is not a gay or straight issue. Schools should be a place of learning, not fear. It's that simple."
The bill could get another vote this spring.