SEPTEMBER 26, 2005
1:17 PM

CONTACT: American Civil Liberties Union
Edwin C. Yohnka of the ACLU of Illinois, 312-201-9740 ext. 305 or 847-687-1129 (mobile) or


ACLU Bill of Rights Event to Honor Local Law Professors, State Senate President Emil Jones, other Legislators and Activists from Across the State

WASHINGTON - September 26 - The President of the Illinois State Senate Emil Jones, University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone and Loyola Law Professor Diane Geraghty headline a list of distinguished awardees to be honored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois at the 2005 Bill of Rights Celebration scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1. The awards recognize the efforts by each honoree to protect basic rights and liberties. More than six hundred (600) ACLU supporters will attend the awards ceremony to be held at the Chicago Hyatt Regency.

This year's awardees include: Geoffrey Stone, professor of Law at the University of Chicago School of Law; Diane Geraghty, director of the Civitas ChildLaw Center at Loyola Law School in Chicago; the Honorable Emil Jones, president of the Illinois State Senate; State Sen. Carol Ronen; State Rep. Larry McKeon; local Chicago activist and lawyer Jerry Newton; Hiram Paley, former mayor of Urbana, Ill.; and, J.D. Wheeler a long-time activist from Peoria.

"This group of honorees proudly reflect the values, the passion and the commitment of the ACLU to support and defend basic constitutional rights," said Colleen Connell, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "From political leaders willing to stand up for basic rights to prominent voices from the legal academy and local activists fighting to protect rights at the local level, these eight individuals have worked tirelessly and courageously for fairness, justice and dignity. Their work is an inspiration for all of us."

The Harry Kalven Freedom of Expression Award is being presented this year to Professor Geoffrey Stone, the Harry Kalven, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago School of Law. Professor Stone is a nationally-renown scholar on free speech and First Amendment issues. His most recent publication, Perilous Time: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, has been widely praised for tracing the troubling history of limiting dissent during times of national crisis. In addition his writing and teaching, Professor Stone often participates in constitutional litigation in the Supreme Court of the United States, including cases involving religious liberty and free speech. Recently, he authored amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case regarding the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, a brief filed on behalf of Fred Korematsu, one of the more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent interned by the United States during World War II.

The Edwin A. Rothschild Award winner for 2005 is Professor Diane Geraghty at the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago. In addition to her work in the classroom, Professor Geraghty serves as Director of the Civitas ChildLaw Center, a nationally recognized leader in advocacy for children. Graduates of the Civitas ChildLaw program serve the legal needs of children in a number of communities and settings across the nation. In 2001, Professor Geraghty was awarded the American Bar Association's Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award.

One of two Roger Baldwin Awards is being presented to Hiram Paley, a retired professor of Mathematics at the University of Illinois and a former mayor of Urbana, Ill. Paley, a longtime Urbana resident, first became active in local Urbana politics in 1961 when he joined a movement to support open housing and demonstrated against some downtown Urbana stores that engaged in discriminatory employment practices. By 1973, his activism propelled him into the office of mayor, where he lead the effort to make Urbana the first community in Illinois to adopt a human rights ordinance that barred discrimination against racial minorities, as well as gay men and lesbians, in housing and basic public accommodations.

Long-time Peoria activist J.D. Wheeler also is a recipient of the Roger Baldwin Award. Wheeler, a longtime Peoria resident, describes himself as a "catalyst for change." While being a prolific writer of letters to local newspapers and publications, Wheeler also has turned his advocacy into direct action. He long has worked to ensure that religious liberty of all persons is protected, most recently helping to organize a coalition of community groups to oppose an administration approved prayer that was part of graduation ceremonies at a local high school. Wheeler also played a central role in recent efforts to amend the Peoria Housing and Employment Ordinance to include sexual orientation as a protected class.

Jerry Newton, a devoted ACLU member and Chicago-based community activist is awarded the Annetta Dieckmann Volunteer Award. Ms. Newton has devoted her energies and passion over many years to achieving and preserving fundamental fairness for all persons in our society - a tradition that began when she crossed lines of picketers protesting integration at the public high school she attended. In addition to her work on behalf of the ACLU of Illinois, Ms. Newton has worked tirelessly to preserve women's reproductive freedom, serving on the Board of the Chicago Foundation for Women, Planned Parenthood, Personal PAC and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

The recipients of the 2005 John R. Hammell Award are three legislators celebrated for tireless devotion and leadership to ensuring passage of a measure that guarantees fundamental equality for all GLBT persons in Illinois. State Senate President Emil Jones, State Sen. Carol Ronen and State Rep. Larry McKeon played critical roles in ensuring final passage of an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act that extended basic legal protections to lesbians, gay men and transgender persons. The adoption of the measure, and signature by the Governor in January 2005, marked the successful conclusion of a decades long struggle to pass this critical legislation.

"We are looking forward to a successful Bill of Rights Celebration," add the ACLU's Connell. "The quality of the awardees, the strength and vitality of our membership and the importance of civil liberties issues in the public consciousness at this time makes this event very special."