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Prairie Pride Coalition urges vigilance following decision on Roe v. Wade

A parade marshal starts the Seattle Pride Parade in 2019. Organizers are paying extra attention to security at Pride events this year after arrests in Idaho.
Elaine Thompson
A Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case is alarming LGBTQ+ advocates.

A leader in the Prairie Pride Coalition in McLean County said Tuesday the Supreme Court decision overturning legal abortion means LGBTQ+ people need to be vigilant about their rights. David Bentlin said he's disappointed, but not shocked, by the ruling.

"Two or three years ago, I never imagined we'd be having this kind of conversation. But here we are in 2022. And we're here. And that's the reality we're faced with at the moment," said Bentlin.

Bentlin said the ruling also raises a lot of questions about what it means for LGBTQ+ people. In the court opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said the ruling should not be construed as affecting any other area than abortion. But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote it absolutely means other precedents should be reconsidered, such as gay marriage and contraception bans.

Who does Bentlin believe?

"I think this decision has shown our community, the LGBTQ+ community, that we can never be completely assured our rights are always going to be there, and that we need to keep working to make sure we elect people who are going to help make sure that we don't lose our rights," he said.

Bentlin said the precedent may send a message to LGBTQ people that it's not safe to be out of the closet.

"It depends where they live. If I were a young person living in one of the southern states that are hell bent on reversing whatever rights we've won, I would have second thoughts. And it would not be as easy decision to be out and to be proud during this month of pride, unfortunately," said Bentlin.

Bentlin said Illinois is a good place for LGBTQ protections, adding if advances in rights are rolled back in other states, Illinois could attract LGBTQ people and their intellectual capital. Even if that happens, he said Illinois residents would still have an uncertain environment.

"It's comforting to know we live in one of the progressive states in the Midwest. Illinois is sort of an oasis in a lot of ways compared to surrounding states like Indiana and Missouri. But if that day were to come where these decisions would be sent back to the states, you would have a jigsaw puzzle. And every time an LGBTQ+ person who lives in Illinois traveled anywhere outside of the state of Illinois, they would have to see if the place they're traveling to is going to offer them the same level of protection and equality that they experience in Illinois," said Bentlin.

Bentlin said while Prairie Pride is a nonpartisan organization, it encourages members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to take a close look at the ballot box when they choose candidates.

"That will go a long way toward combating a lot of this. I mean, let's face it with the Supreme Court right now, we're pretty much stuck. That's what it is. It's a life term for anybody who wants to stay on there for their entire life," said Bentlin. "If we can start building those blocks back up, that will go a long way toward helping right the ship the Supreme Court has turned on its side."

Bentlin said right now these issues are at a fever pitch, and when a calmer period comes, LGBTQ+ people, perhaps, can resume reaching out to persuade the nation they deserve protection from discrimination just as every other person does.

"We're a relatively small percentage of the overall population. And we rely on our allies. And we rely on people who have friends who are LGBTQ+, who work with people who are LGBTQ+, who have family members who are members of the LGBTQ+ community — those connections are so important. We need to continue to make those connections," he said.

Bentlin acknowledged come people will never be reachable, but the vast middle part of America is open to a dialogue.

"I think that our greatest opportunity for really bringing about some change, and assuring that our rights are not going to go away," said Bentlin, who also singled out for attention concurring words in the ruling from Justice Thomas.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” wrote Thomas.

The rulings Thomas referred to guarantee the right to contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriages. Bentlin noted Thomas did not mention Loving v. Virginia, which was a court case in the late '60s in which the Supreme Court overturned overturned the ban on interracial marriage. Thomas has an interracial marriage. Bentlin said he believes the issues at stake in Loving are similar to the arguments and issues in the cases Thomas did mention.

"That to me indicates someone who is politicizing the Supreme Court, because they're not applying their opinion across all classes. I have a problem with that," said Bentlin.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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