Illinois Lawmaker Struggles to Define ‘Opposite Sex’ in Debate


During a debate about a bill to align state statute with federal statute, an Illinois state legislator was unable to provide her personal definition of the term “opposite sex.”

State Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, presented Senate Bill 3351 on Thursday. This bill amends the Subsidized Housing Joint Occupancy Act, stipulating that an elderly parent with an adult child with disabilities of the opposite sex “shall not be required to occupy subsidized housing with only one bedroom.”

“We want to give people dignity, and this is a way to align the state of Illinois with federal standards,” she said.

The bill does not provide a definition of “opposite sex.”

Republican state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, asked Costa Howard for her definition of opposite sex, but she couldn’t provide one.

“Oh, representative, let’s go,” Costa Howard said before reading a part of the bill that did not include the definition. “It means as defined in the federal definitions.”

Illinois state Reps. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, and Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, debated the definition of “opposite sex” on the House floor in Springfield.BlueRoomStream

Halbrook said he didn’t have the federal definition handy and requested Costa Howard to provide it. She lacked the definition as well.

“What does that mean to you?” Halbrook asked. “This is your bill, so just explain to this body what that means to you.”

Costa Howard said her personal feelings on the matter were irrelevant. Halbrook also inquired whether she believed the definition of “opposite sex” is static or fluid.

“Well, I think my personal feelings on how we define opposite sex are frankly irrelevant,” she reiterated.

Halbrook argued that legislators should have a clear definition of “opposite sex” before the House voted on the measure.

Costa Howard emphasized that she and her Democratic colleagues in the supermajority are moving forward to provide dignity to those living in subsidized housing.

“You do you, and we’ll do us,” she said.

The measure ultimately passed and can now be sent to the governor for further action.

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