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State Farm faces heat over gender identity school book program


Illinois legislators and advocacy group Equality Illinois issued a joint assertion Thursday calling out State Farm after the insurance coverage large pulled help for a gender id faculty e book program.

Facing backlash, Bloomington-based State Farm ended its partnership this week with the GenderCool Project, a “youth-led” nonprofit group that distributes kids’s books about being transgender, inclusive and nonbinary to varsities and libraries. Now the insurance coverage firm is feeling the warmth from LGBTQ advocates.

“When it came to our attention that State Farm had reversed this partnership with the GenderCool Project, we found that to be reprehensible,” stated state Sen. Mike Simmons, a North Side Democrat and the primary overtly homosexual state senator in Illinois. “In 2022, we need allies who are for real, and who are really going to stand with the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly when we are under siege right now in so many parts of the country.”

Simmons was considered one of 5 Illinois legislators to signal the assertion, which stated State Farm made a “knee-jerk concession to bigotry” by dropping its help for the GenderCool Project.

State Farm got here below fireplace this week after a January letter recruiting 550 brokers and workers to take part in this system by donating a three-book bundle to academics, group facilities and libraries was printed on-line by Consumers’ Research. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit academic group launched a marketing campaign vital of this system, calling State Farm “a creepy neighbor” focusing on 5-year-olds.

State Farm posted a press release on its web site Tuesday explaining the choice to finish its affiliation with GenderCool, saying it didn’t help “required curriculum in schools on this topic.” But with criticism over the abrupt determination mounting, State Farm issued a press release Thursday affirming its help for the LGBTQ+ group.

“We cannot take back the frustration, hurt and emotion many have endured as a result of our actions and our response, but we can move forward knowing we will continue to respect and support everyone in our communities, representing every group within our society,” the corporate stated.

Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, a nonprofit group advocating for LGBTQ rights, stated the State Farm partnership with GenderCool was by no means meant to make the books required studying for youngsters in colleges.

“This was a volunteer program with State Farm for employees and agents … to make sure that books which talk about gender identity in an accurate and affirming way were accessible by people who wanted it,” stated Johnson, who additionally signed the legislators’ assertion.

Gender id schooling in colleges has grow to be a lightning rod difficulty within the wake of current laws enacted in Florida, Texas and different states, which critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” legal guidelines.

In March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed laws “prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten by third grade. The Parental Rights in Education regulation has sparked outrage amongst LGBTQ+ advocates and opposition from dozens of corporations, together with Disney, which has 77,000 workers at its Disney World theme park in Orlando.

Last month, World Business Chicago, town’s public-private financial growth arm, launched a advertising marketing campaign in Florida, Texas and Arizona to advertise Chicago as a extra inclusive enterprise local weather.

With Pride Month starting subsequent week and the annual Chicago Pride Parade scheduled for June 26, Johnson stated State Farm won’t be welcome to take part within the festivities — except it reverses the choice to drop help for GenderCool.

“You can’t actually rescind support for families and young people who want to learn about gender identity in an affirming way, and then next week launch a marketing blitz that says you’re super supportive of the LGBTQ+ community,” Johnson stated. “At least you can’t do both those things without us calling out your hypocrisy.”

The GenderCool Project is an academic group serving to to “replace misinformed opinions with positive, powerful experiences” by the tales of transgender and nonbinary children, stated Jennifer Grosshandler, co-founder and government director of the four-year-old Chicago-based nonprofit.

Grosshandler, who stated the group started working with State Farm a couple of 12 months in the past on the voluntary program, was extra conciliatory towards the insurance coverage firm.

“We were disappointed to learn about the decision,” stated Grosshandler. “The truth is that StateFarm has done really good and important work with the LGBTQ community. They’re going on their own journey. And the outpouring of love and support that we’ve gotten from all of our current corporate partners has been remarkable.”

rchannick@chicagotribune.com



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