Illinois -- Some people are leaving states with anti-trans or anti-LGBTQ+ laws and relocating to LGBTQ+ friendly states like Illinois. They said it's an issue of safety.
A realtor and some other Illinois-based organizations said they've seen an uptick in people looking to move to the Land of Lincoln to escape anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in other states. That includes one father who said his family is moving to Illinois because he believes it will help ensure his son's well-being and safety.
"As a parent, you have one job, love your kid. That's your only job and your kids telling you something over and over and over again. If you love them. You believe them," said Mark, who asked that his last name not be used.
His family is moving to Illinois for the sake of his 7-year-old son, who is transgender. To protect his son's identity, Mark is using another name, Connor.
"Connor just wants to be a boy. And so, you know, we weren't dismissive, but we were sort of quiet about it the first couple times Connor said this. And we would listen to him and say, you know, 'We can deal with that later. You're a little young.' But it became sort of a common thing. Maybe once a month, that maybe once a week," Mark said.
Mark and his wife and their son are leaving Kentucky and moving to the Chicago area due to anti-trans legislation recently passed there.
"The first concern is around teachers or other employees of the school being able to deadname my child or misgendering them," he said. "Second concern is use of a bathroom. Either they'll have to use the nurse's bathroom or the bathroom that is not their gender, so that would out them. A third concern is around medication. So doctors in Kentucky will lose their license if they treat my son."
Gender-affirming care for minors will also be banned in Kentucky by late June.
"So that means we have to travel across state lines to get medicine," Mark said. "And my fourth concern is what law comes next. And what harsher penalties and loss of rights will my son experience."
Mark is working with realtor June Allen-Smith to find a home in the Chicago area.
"So a lot of people have already done their research and they know that they just have to leave the place that they live in now where the laws have already started to restrict their lifestyle," said Allen-Smith, a lesbian who serves the LGBTQ+ community. She said she has another client moving to Illinois from Indiana to escape anti-LGBTQ+ bills there.
One Indiana bill banning gender-affirming care for minors goes into law July 1.
"I feel that they have an ally, they have someone who understands what they're going through, some of what they're going through, because I can never understand every complexity, but I have an insight into the reality into the community of issues that we face," said Allen-Smith.
The ABC7 Data Team looked at anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country and found that in 2023 alone, state legislatures have introduced more than 400 anti-transgender bills. About 100 failed in the legislature, more than 60 have passed. The rest are still pending. There are also dozens of other anti-LGBTQ+ bills targeting gay and lesbian rights and bills attempting to limit any discussion of sexuality at school.
"Indiana has 18, Missouri has 48 and these laws range from a variety of different things; outline mentioning of LGBTQ+ history, barring transgender kids from participating in sports preventing trans people from accessing care to transition, appropriately banning books related to this area and so on, and so on," said Terri Ross, executive director for Illinois Legal Aid Online who has been monitoring anti LGBTQ+ legislation across the country.
Ross' organization helps people legally change their names or gender identity markers. She said some of those clients in other states are also looking to relocate, to get away from anti-trans or anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
"It's definitely real, right. The fear is real. The intimidation is real," Mark said. "Because we have to uproot our family. I was born and raised in Kentucky. I'm less than two hours from the place I was born. And I don't want to leave, but I can't stay."
Mark and his realtor said they have an offer in on a home located in a Chicago area suburb that is LGBTQ+ friendly.
The I-Team also reached out to Equality Illinois, which said it's seeing an uptick in people reaching out to them about relocating to Illinois for similar reasons.