—the largest LGBTQ lobby group in Illinois—has hired attorney Mony Ruiz-Velasco as its first deputy director. She will assume the position on July 15.
Ruiz-Velasco, a Latinx woman who has long advocated immigrant rights in her legal profession, helps bring leadership diversity to an organization that was once criticized for its perception as a fundraising club of white, wealthy, cis-gender gay men interested only in passing gay marriage.
“As an attorney Mony has represented and counseled hundreds of LGBTQ families and asylum seekers who were seeking protection from persecution; she has also worked on legislation that would benefit LGBTQ immigrants at the national level,” the lobby said in a statement.
The statement also punctuates the organization's want to be seen as a partner to LGBTQ people of color. Also, in reaction to perception of biases against transgender persons by transgender advocates, Equality Illinois wants to highlight it is indeed working for transgender Illinoisans.
“Mony will be prepared on day one to fight for LGBTQ underserved communities; including pushing for trans equality, supporting queer youth, protecting EI's wins, and expanding EI's reach into every community throughout the state.”
Ruiz-Velasco will be tasked with outreach—to grow engagement with its LGBTQ stakeholders in communities of color and transgender persons.
Equality Illinois calls it a “commitment to double down on civic engagement” and “growing the organization.”
The organization lists among its accomplishments: lobbying for the 2013 passage of Illinois marriage equality through the legislative process; fighting in 2017 for Illinois to allow transgender persons to update their birth certificates with their proper gender identity; pursuing the 2010 passage of Illinois civil unions; among others.
Equality Illinois was founded in 1991 by Art Johnston, Rick Garcia, Jon Henri Damski, and Lana Hostetler. They were influential in the 1988 passage of Chicago's Human Rights Ordinance—a pioneering municipal law in the U.S.