Congressional Republicans said in December that they planned to reintroduce a 2015 bill this year that protects individuals and businesses who discriminate against LGBT people and cite their religious convictions as their reasons.
Among the co-sponsors of that legislation, which has yet to be reintroduced in this Congress, is Illinois 3rd District Rep. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat who has opposed LGBT and pro-choice measures in the past.
Lipinski represents Chicago's Southwest Side starting with Bridgeport, and with a gerrymandered link that connects to Midway Airport and the Southwest Suburbs.
Lipinski, who is the only Democratic co-sponsor of the religious legislation, told Windy City Times that he has rethought that measure, but he has a long record of opposing LGBT- and abortion-rights.
The legislation, known as the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), was introduced as identical bills in the House, where it is H.R. 2802, introduced by Rep. Paul Labrador (R-Idaho), and in the Senate, where it is S.1598, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), on June 17, 2015. It was reassigned to committees and seemingly had no legislative traction. But a spokesman for Lee told BuzzFeed Dec. 9 that he plans to reintroduce the bill in the new Congress. President Donald J. Trump said during his campaign that he would sign the legislation.
"Hopefully November's results will give us the momentum we need to get this done next year," said Lee's spokesman, Conn Carroll. "We do plan to reintroduce FADA next Congress and we welcome Trump's positive words about the bill."
Indeed, the White House leaked, on the week of Jan. 30, a prospective draft order that would have put into place the rules in FADA. LGBT activists and their allies immediately prepared to go into action upon the signing. But Trump Administration officials emphasized that the leaked order was one of many submitted to the administration and that they did not intend to take any action. According to reports, Trump's decision came at the behest of his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, who frequently give counsel to the president.
If Trump does indeed follow his word about the executive order, the likelihood of FADA being reintroduced seems high in the current political climate. Some officials have vowed to fight the law, which would operate similarly in many ways to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which passed in Indiana in 2015.
Among the tenets of FADA are that the federal government would be prohibited from taking retaliatory action against a person who is accused of discrimination, should that discrimination be rooted in the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage should be the union between a man and a woman and/or the belief that sexual relations should be reserved to persons in such a relationship.
While the leaked draft-order from the White House was broader in its strokes, passage of FADA would still have wide-reaching implications. LGBT employees of federal contractors could no longer claim federal protections that they won in a 2014 executive order signed by then-President Barack Obama. Students who are LGBT would no longer have any protections against discrimination since the specter of withholding federal funds from school districts would be dropped. The definition of "person" is also extended to corporations and non-religious organizations as well.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said on its website that FADA "would allow individuals, many businesses, and non-profit organizationseven those contracting with the federal governmentto circumvent critical federal protections designed to protect LGBTQ families from harmful discrimination. … FADA would allow individuals and businesses using taxpayer dollars to ignore the few federal policies that do exist to protect them if they claim the protections aren't in line with their individual beliefs about marriage."
In a statement to Windy City Times, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5th), who is vice-chairman of the House's LGBT Equality Caucus, said of FADA, "If we are committed to preserving the founding principles of our nation, we must stop injustice and hatred in its tracks. The First Amendment Defense Act does just the opposite by protecting prejudices and validating discrimination. I strongly oppose this legislation because I believe that all peopleregardless of sexual orientation or gender identity—deserve to be treated with respect and compassion."
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) added in a statement, "Discrimination against LGBTQ people is wrong and unconstitutional. That is why I so strongly oppose the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow people to discriminate with impunity. I am fervently opposed to this attack on the rights of the LGBTQ community, and I pledge to fight against its passage and against any legislation that would discriminate against people because of who they are or whom they love."
FADA was proposed in the fervor surrounding the passage of RFRA in Indiana; at that time, Lipinski signed on to co-sponsor the legislation in the House along with Illinois Reps. Peter Roskam (R-6th) and Randy Hultgren (R-14th).
HRC spokesman Brandon Lorenz decried Lipinski's FADA sponsorship and his past votes on LGBT issues.
"Discrimination isn't an American value and it certainly isn't a Chicago value," Lorenz said. Congressman Lipinski's willingness to enable discrimination against LGBTQ people is simply inexcusable. It's bad enough that Congressman Lipinski has refused to join the majority of Americans who support comprehensive LGBTQ non-discrimination protections in federal law. Sponsoring the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination, is reckless, irresponsible and harms LGBTQ Americans."
Lipinski has the distinction of being the Democrat with the lowest score56on HRC's 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The average Democrat's score is 96, according to the organization.
Terry Cosgrove, CEO of the pro-choice organization Personal PAC and an LGBT-rights activist, called Lipinski "public enemy number one" among the Democrats when it came to choice and LGBT issues.
"People believe that if you're a Democrat, you're always good about these issues," Cosgrove said. "While that's mostly true, it's not universally true. … He's endorsed by every right-to-life organization and anti-LGBT groups like Focus on the Family."
Cosgrove recalled that when the logistics of the Affordable Care Act were being ironed out, Lipinski was one of several congresspersons who threatened to vote against the bill if abortions were covered. When that element was removed, Lipinski voted against it anyway.
"He's a total right-winger," Cosgrove added. "There's no other way to sugarcoat this."
On Jan. 25, Lipinski voted in favor of HR 7, a bill that would, if enacted, make into permanent law restrictions prohibiting the federal government from funding abortion services, especially for persons whose insurance is subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. Such restrictions were already in place, but they've usually been attached to seperate pieces of funding legislation. With HR 7, such restrictions would be enshrined into law permanently.
Lipinski indicated in a 2014 Illinois Family Institute voter's guide that he supported a constitutional amendment defining a marriage as being between a man and a woman and did not support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). He also said that he supported a law "preventing the undermining of the Defense of Marriage Act." Lipinski did however vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as well as for the implementation of the Hate Crimes Expansion Bill.
He has long enjoyed the backing of the Illinois Democratic Party. His father, Bill Lipinski, who had long served the 3rd District, announced his retirement in 2004 just two weeks before the deadline for a ballot replacement, leaving no time for a new primary race. As such, Dan Lipinskiwho had not lived in Illinois for several yearswas named by local Democratic leaders, including Bill Lipinski and House Speaker Mike Madigan, as a replacement.
Lipinski's district is a major transportation hub; Bill Lipinski was referred to by Chicago media as the "king of transportation clout." Dan Lipinski in the 2015-2016 election cycle received financial contributions from PACs related to transportation companies such as Boeing, American Airlines, Federal Express and Norfolk Southern. Other contributors included PACs affiliated with AFL-CIO, AT&T, Comcast, General Electric and Honeywell.
Windy City Times asked Lipinski for an interview about the FADA co-sponsorship and his views on LGBT issues. While his office did not agree to the interview, they issued a statement from the congressman emphasizing that there had been no formal announcement of FADA's re-introduction, and that he was committed to carefully thinking through any legislation involving discrimination.
Lipinski said, "Discrimination is wrong. That is why I voted to add sexual orientation to the federal hate crime law and to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.
"My decision to cosponsor this legislation in 2015 was based on concerns such as those mentioned by President Obama's solicitor general stating that religious organizations could lose their tax exempt status because of the Obergefell [marriage] decision. Since that time, I have met with constituents who have expressed concerns that the language of that bill could have had impacts that resulted in unjust discrimination. With the start of the new Congress this year, that bill is no longer under consideration in the House. If a similar bill is introduced this year, I will take a critical view of it and meet with concerned constituents in the LGBTQ community before taking any position on it."
Lipinski, like all U.S. House representatives, will be up for re-election in 2018.
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The 3rd Congressional District
Wikipedia notes that Rep. Dan Lipinski's 3rd Congressional district is "situated between the Hispanic-majority 4th District to the north and the black-majority 1st and 7th Districts to the east" and "is the home of numerous sizable and historic ethnic groups including Irish, Polish, Arab, German, Italian and Czech immigrants and their descendants. At 14.2%, the Irish make up the largest ethnic group in the district, most prominently in the Bridgeport area (the ancestral neighborhood of the Daley family and other Chicago Irish politicians) and the Mount Greenwood-Beverly area … . The Polish form the next largest white ethnic group at 13.5%, tying the Northwest Side's 5th District for the second highest percentage of any district, behind only New York's 27th congressional district. … The next largest ethnic groups are Germans (11.0%) and Italians (6.9%). Of the suburbs primarily south of 87th Street (in Palos and Worth Townships), 9 of 10 have larger Irish than Polish populations, usually by large margins; but north of 87th Street, in those areas in Lyons Township south of Interstate 55 or in the townships to the east of Harlem Avenue, 9 of 10 suburbs have greater Polish populations than Irish, again by large margins. In Oak Lawn, the district's largest suburb, Irish outnumber Polish 30%-19% … .
"More recently a large Mexican community has moved to the district, notably in Berwyn, Cicero, Hodgkins and Summit where they represent over 30% of the population, and along Archer Avenue, a major Chicago artery that runs through the district's northern section. There is also a sizable Greek community in Oak Lawn and Palos Hills. In the last two decades, there has been notable Arab settlement in the vicinity of Bridgeview, and by the 2000 Census, Arabs represented one of the five largest non-Hispanic ethnic groups in Bridgeview and three adjacent suburbs. Approximately 41% of the district's residents live in Chicago. Roughly 21% of the district's population is Hispanic, 68% are Caucasian, 6% are African American and 3% are Asian; redistricting following the 2000 Census and the continued influx of Hispanics tripled the minority population from a decade earlier, as the district in its previous configuration had a population that was 7% Hispanic, 2% African American and 1% Asian."
Chart: Lipinski corporate donors, 2015-2016, and Chart: Lipinski private donors, 2015-2016 at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/Lipinskidonors.pdf.
Also see Rep. Lipinski's votes on LGBT issues, donor charts at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Rep-Lipinskis-votes-on-LGBT-issues-/58142.html .