The downtown Chicago offices of law firm Jenner & Block served as the location for Congressman Mike Quigley ( IL-05 ) to host a Feb. 20 meeting with LGBTQ community and non-profit leaders, advocates and activists who form his LGBTQ Leadership Council for an update on the status of LGBTQ issues on Capitol Hill.
"You are the eyes and ears of the community," Quigley told the audience. "These are complicated times."
In the 114th, Republican-controlled Congress, Quigley is vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. He serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ( HPSCI ), is the sole Illinois member of the House Committee on Appropriations and the second highest ranking member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee.
"I'm announcing today that I am probably the only member of the Illinois delegation not running for senate," he said. "We have a great delegation in Illinois and I am confident that we will field an outstanding candidate. Chicago needs an appropriations congressmen. My goal is to be chairman of the full Appropriations Committee so we don't have to beg someone else to give what is deserving to us in this community but what is justifiably ours."
He added that the White House and House Speaker John Boehner finding middle ground was "the only way anything you care about will happen. The fact of the matter is that the Tea Partythe farthest rightis the tip of the dog's tail wagging the body politic. You will hear of things that pass that you find great and horrible."
One of Quigley's priorities is LGBTQ poverty. "I've had some meetings with [Chicago House CEO] Stan Sloan dealing with the myth that the LGBTQ community is wealthy and has no economic woes," he said. "We have to pay attention to the community and its financial needs."
To that end Quigley announced that in March he will be hosting a Washington briefing on LGBTQ poverty from the perspectives of direct service providers, researchers and policy experts. "I see this briefing as a starting point of a much larger conversation about poverty and how we [in Congress] identify problems and solutions."
He will also be at the Supreme Court of the U.S. arguments in four same-sex marriage cases expected in April.
Quigley also noted that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) has not been introduced in the 114th Congress. "It will be and we will do the best we can," he said.
However the Student Non-Discrimination Act ( SNDA )of which he is a co-sponsorhas been reintroduced. The Act prohibits public schools from discriminating against students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. But there are moves to cut that coverage from the bill.
Quigley also updated the council on immigration reformfor which he has been a long-time and passionate advocate. "We are estimating 267,000 LGBT immigrants living in the U.S. many of whom came to this country to escape threats and violence," he said. "We have to improve the asylum process. We have to eliminate the [one-year] filing deadline altogether because the protection from deadly oppression should not have an expiration date. We have to do a lot more to ensure the protection of immigrants in detention."
Quigley said funding for implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act ( PREA ) in immigration detention facilities has been increased. He also introduced the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act ( AIDA ) aiming to improve standards of living in detention centers. "I joined with my Equality Caucus colleagues pushing DHS Secretary [Jeh] Johnson pushing for greater protection of LGBT and especially trans people in these facilities," he said.
Internationally, Quigley commented on the special envoy recently created by the State Department to advocate for LGBT rights. "The establishment of the envoy illustrates our commitment to promoting equal rights and the fair treatment of LGBT communities across the world," he said.
Quigley related the issue of HIV/AIDS to poverty. "There's a lot of signs of progress but it is still a tenaciously strong [economic] downturn for the poorest among us and that's something we need to address," he said. "We have to guard against people who say 'this is over' and not recognize all the issues related to it."
He admitted that totally eliminating the FDA ban on men-who-have-sex-with-men ( MSM ) donating blood was "turning a massive ship around in a harbor but we're going to get there." So far, the policy has just been modified to be less restrictive.
While fielding a number of questions from the council, Quigley addressed transgender issues including the devastating number of murders of trans women of color. "I hear in D.C. folks more over to the right who say 'gay and lesbian' and actually use the term 'orientation'," he said. "I don't know how else to say this but apparently you're on the back end of the line waiting to get justice. I think you are going to see a Republican attempt to codify the Department of Defense ban on transgender [service members] and you'll start to see where you're lined up and who is with you. There is a long way to go."