Decriminalizing Adult Consensual Sex Work: Ensuring Safety, Rights, and Dignity - City Club of Chicago
Decriminalizing Adult Consensual Sex Work: Ensuring Safety, Rights, and Dignity

Decriminalizing Adult Consensual Sex Work: Ensuring Safety, Rights, and Dignity

moderated by Senator Celina Villanueva
Panelists: Brian C. Johnson (Equality Illinois) and Reyna Ortiz (TaskForce / SWAG)

Thursday, Apr 25, 2024
Doors Open at 11:30 am / Event Begins at 12:00 pm


Maggiano's Banquets
111 W. Grand Avenue
ChicagoIL 60654

Map and directions

In light of increasing violence against sex workers, Equality Illinois and the Sex Worker Advisory Group (SWAG) have united to launch a campaign to keep adult consensual sex workers safe by decriminalizing sex work. Two-thirds of trans people killed in the past decade were sex workers and three-quarters of all sex workers will experience violence in their careers. 

Join Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, Reyna Ortiz, Chair of the Sex Worker Advisory Group, and Illinois State Senator Celina Villanueva to learn more about why this issue matters to many groups including those who care about bodily autonomy and the LGBTQ+ community.


Brian C. Johnson

Brian C. Johnson has served as the CEO of Equality Illinois, the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, since 2016.  In this role, he leads efforts to build a better Illinois by advancing equal treatment & full acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

As CEO, Brian oversees the three non-profit entities that make up the organization, each with its own board of directors: Equality Illinois Institute, the 501 (c)(3) arm that focuses on education of the public, media and policy makers on LGBT issues; Equality Illinois, the 501 (c)(4) entity that advocates for the adoption of particular policies aimed at making Illinois a more equal and accepting place for the LGBTQ community; and the Equality Illinois Political Action Committee (PAC), which endorses and supports political candidates on the state and local levels who will champion a more equitable future for Illinois.

Prior to his time at Equality Illinois, Brian spent nearly two decades as a leader in social justice.  His passion for fighting for equity was catalyzed by having served as a first-grade teacher, and Teach For America corps member, in Baton Rouge, LA.  Seeing first-hand how systemic injustice impacted the lives of passionate and capable children, Brian committed his career to fighting to make sure America lived up to its promise as a fair and equitable country.

Brian came to Equality Illinois from Leadership For Educational Equity (LEE), where he served as the Vice President of Regional Impact.  In this role, he helped lead the nationwide efforts to recruit nearly 300 teachers and former teachers to become candidates for public office while simultaneously launching community led organizing efforts in a dozen cities across the country including Chicago, New York, Houston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Brian has served in a variety of leadership roles in non-profits throughout the country.  He served as the Executive Director of Teach For America in Los Angeles where he led the efforts to place and support nearly 800 effective teachers in public schools throughout Los Angeles.  He also headed up the Larchmont Schools, two racially and socio-economically diverse public schools in central Los Angeles.  Under his leadership, both schools were recognized as among the academically highest performing schools in the state of California.

Brian earned his AB, magna cum laude, from Princeton University, his JD from Stanford Law School, and his MBA, as an Arjay Miller Scholar, from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  He is also Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow since 2020.  He lives with his husband Toby and their daughter Josephine in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago.

Reyna Ortiz

Reyna Ortiz is the Program Director with TaskForce Prevention & Community Services. Founded in 1990, TaskForce Prevention & Community Services (TaskForce) is located on the west side of Chicago, in the heart of the Austin community. TaskForce is a grassroots organization committed to improving the sexual health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth of color in Chicago by providing a safe space for fellowship, HIV/STI screening and education, and on-site referrals to medical, housing, and other social services. 

Reyna is a Chair of the Sex Worker Advisory Group. Reyna is also a board member of Equality Illinois and Equality Illinois Institute. 

Senator Celina Villanueva

Born in Chicago and raised in Little Village, Celina Villanueva is currently the State Senator for Illinois’ 12th District. Celina began organizing and advocating for her community as a teenager, and is committed to building immigrant power, developing young leaders, expanding voting rights and engaging immigrant communities and allies.

During her time at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Celina organized her community to pressure lawmakers to pass online, same-day and automatic voter registration – all of which are now law. There, Celina also ran the largest immigrant civic engagement program in the state, registering over 200,000 new American voters. Prior to joining ICIRR, Celina served as the Director of Organizing at Chicago Votes where she engaged young voters in democracy.

When Celina was appointed to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2018, she brought the voices of her community with her to continue the work they had started. In the House, Celina led the effort to include strong social equity measures in the state’s cannabis laws so that communities harmed by failed drug policies would not be abandoned. Celina also worked with immigrant advocates to pass the Keep Illinois Families Together Act, prohibiting law enforcement from working with ICE.

Celina was first sworn into the Illinois Senate in 2020 and currently sits on the Senate Special Committee on Criminal Law and Public Safety, Appropriations, Higher Education, Labor, Revenue (Chair), Transportation, Chicago Elected Representative School Board,  Committees. Senator Villanueva remains a community organizer at heart and will continue to uplift marginalized voices in Springfield.

When she’s not busy trying to change the world Celina is an avid reader, lover of musicals, shopping, dancing and a great brunch.

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