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LGBTQ community holds town hall with local lawmaker

CARBONDALE (WSIL) — The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Question (LGBTQ) community demanded answers from lawmakers who represent them in Springfield during a town hall Tuesday night. 

Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton, could not attend because of a surgery. 

Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, attended and the town hall quickly turned into a debate. 

There were people that stormed out of the room upset at Bryant’s answers. Others were happy she was there to answer their questions, but everyone in the room knew there was not much they agreed on. 

The room of more than 50 people waited to hear how Bryant would respond to the LGBTQ community. 

"I know we are not going to be on the same page for a lot of issues," Bryant said. 

The moderator asked Bryant what she could do to help enforce policies that are in reference to LGBT bullying. 

Bryant answered by saying, "Bullying shouldn’t be allowed in any case."

Tara Bell Janowick has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community since she was in her 20’s. 

Bell Janowick said Tuesday night’s meeting was to make sure Bryant knew the challenges the community is facing.

"When you have human beings in front of you who have shared these experiences and are willing to work with you by sharing their concerns, it’s a little hard to ignore your constituency," Bell Janowick said. 

Bell Janowick said there are more LGBTQ people in southern Illinois today than what people might think or see on a daily basis. 

"I don’t care what your sexual preference is," Bryant said. "I really don’t care."

During the town hall, Bryant said just because she might not see eye to eye with someone on a piece of legislation, does not mean she doesn’t support the person.

"I need to be here to hear the issues the community is facing," Bryant said. 

Attendees asked Bryant about the health care and housing for people in the LGBTQ community. 

One of the questions asked Bryant directly if she supports a doctor’s right to refuse to treat trans individuals. 

"I support a doctors right for religious objection," Bryant said. 

Bryant was also asked if she support the Southern Illinois Pride Parade. She said yes, but said she would not march in the parade. 

"That does not mean I’m not going to serve individuals who are marching in the parade or who are here today," Bryant said

Some of those in attendance weren’t happy with Bryant’s answers. 

"I won’t treat you like Rauner if you commit to not getting on the news and commenting about LGBTQ in a discouraging way," attendee Julie Robinson said. 

Bryant responded to Julie by saying she agreed. 

Bryant also pointed out during the meeting, people can change who represent them if they are not happy. 

"There are elections and if you feel strongly in the next election that I’m not representing you, then you should run someone who represents you better," Bryant said. 

Currently there is a piece of legislation sitting on Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk that would require public schools to teach education on the LGBTQ history and community. 

Right now, the Illinois school code includes a history curriculum that consists of historically marginalized communities including people of color, women, immigrant communities and people with disabilities.

If Pritzker signs the Inclusive Curriculum Bill, it would go into effect July 1, 2020.

Bryant voted no on the bill and Severin had an excused absence and missed the vote. 

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