Lambda Legal Condemns Confirmation of Rev. Meeks as Chair of Illinois State Board of Education

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March 19, 2015

Today, Reverend James Meeks was confirmed as Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education in the Illinois Senate.

With the confirmation of Rev. Meeks as Chair of the Illinois State School Board, Lambda Legal remains deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of LGBTQ students in Illinois.

Protecting LGBTQ students in school and ensuring access to a fair and equal education is a critical part of Lambda Legal's mission. In the past, Rev. Meeks made public statements disparaging LGBT people and other minority groups. Such views must not guide or shape the policies of the State Board of Education, and we will be actively engaged with educational leaders in seeking fair and supportive policies for all children, and speaking loudly in protest if LGBTQ and other students are not treated with dignity and respect.

An agenda that holds up our students and places them in the best possible position for a bright future is what we need. We call on the State Board of Education to embrace a vision that is inclusive for all students, regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, gender identity or expression, and disability status.

Lambda Legal is part of the coalition of organizations opposing Governor Rauner’s to nomination of Rev. James Meeks. The following is the full coalition statement:

It is a hard day in Illinois when a person who has repeatedly expressed contempt and disgust for LGBT people, women, Asian Americans, Latinos, Jewish Americans and other vulnerable minority groups can be confirmed to lead the Illinois State Board of Education. He has said publicly that LGBT people are "not natural" and that people who are part of this community are "an evil sickness." And, his life-threatening anti-choice views place our children at risk. We must all work together to support and protect all children.

Despite over 200 witness slips in opposition of Meeks’ appointment, the Illinois Senate rushed through the process and has now placed a divisive person with dangerous world views at the head of the state’s education board, making all children in Illinois vulnerable to harm.

We’d like to thank Senator Steans and Senator Delgado for speaking against the nomination of Rev. Meeks on the Senate floor and standing for the safety of young people across Illinois.

As organizations united against divisiveness and for fairness, we pledge to hold the Rauner Administration accountable for ensuring that Rev. Meeks and all the members of the State Board of Education work for all students – regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, gender identity/expression, disability status and are all afforded safe learning environments.

The state-wide coalition is comprised of over 35 organizations representing the LGBT community, people of color, people of faith, education professionals, women and many other organizations.

Read the press release.