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February 7, 2000

Governor Ryan Declares Support For The Gender Violence Act

CHICAGO - Governor George H. Ryan today endorsed passage this year of the Illinois Gender Violence Act, a key recommendation of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women.

"With the Gender Violence Act in place, Illinois would become a true pioneer - a state with an anti-violence law that empowers victims," Ryan said.

The Gender Violence Act will be sponsored by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, State Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Des Plaines, and State Sen. Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago, as House Bill 4407. The proposal closely follows the 1994 Federal Violence Against Women Act, which provides women with an option to sue their attackers in federal court. Illinois' proposed law would allow victims of gender-related violence to hold their attackers personally responsible for civil damages in state court.

"This law would simply create a way for victims of brutal crimes and frightening threats to have the ability to strike back at batterers and abusers by going after their checkbook - to make them pay money damages for their acts of violence or threats," Ryan added.

This measure is a deterrent to acts of aggression based on gender or sexuality, and is in no way intended to burden the courts. It provides a civil remedy for women as well as gay and lesbian victims of "gay-bashing."

While current law makes employers financially responsible for the violent and intimidating acts of their employees, this proposal allows victims to sue an attacker directly. And, by making rapists and batterers pay for the harm they cause from their own pocket, this measure removes pressure from businesses, which, until now, have been responsible for the costs of sex discrimination in the workplace.

State and federal law currently defines gender-based violence as "actionable sex discrimination" if it occurs in the workplace or in a few other limited settings. This proposal would expand these protections to the home, the community and in places where such violence is most likely to occur. With this measure, every individual will be given a responsibility that has mostly rested with employers.

"This law is better for business because employers won't have to take the fall for an employee that engages in violence or intimidating acts," Ryan said.

The first executive order of Ryan's administration reinstated the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women. Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood and Chicago attorney Judy Gold serve as Co-Chairs of the Commission.

"Our sisters, wives and daughters; as well as our brothers, sons and friends deserve the right to their day in court if they are brutally victimized or threatened. I look forward to seeing this bill passed by the General Assembly," Ryan said.


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