How an Illinois City Council Passed Unprecedented Local Human Rights Protections

To protect residents and visitors from the effects of right-wing repression so prevalent in the southern Illinois region, the Carbondale City Council has laid two new cornerstones in its legal infrastructure. On July 11, in front of a packed chamber, the council and mayor received a standing ovation after enacting a bodily autonomy ordinance stating the City will respect and protect the fundamental right of individuals to make autonomous decisions about medical care. It prohibits city employees, officers and departments from cooperating with states seeking extradition or even just providing information about out-of-state visitors seeking lawful medical treatments in Illinois.

To preempt further attacks, the council also adopted a companion ordinance which creates a legal receptacle in the city’s code for expanded protections — a new human rights title. Title 22 will house the adopted bodily autonomy ordinance and whatever additional rights the council adopts over time. At the meeting, City Attorney Jamie Snyder characterized its preamble — which points to areas of potential rights for workers, tenants and religious worshippers as well as non-worshippers — as the council’s statement of policy, not yet imbued with legal force. The categories of rights will have to be taken up for consideration by the council along with public input and will be enacted (or not) one by one.

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