Congressman Mike Quigley is known for many thingsincluding his passion for LGBT rights. Among other things, he is vice-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and is a founding member of the Transgender Equality Task Force. A hockey enthusiast, he even played that sport during the Gay Games when the event was in Chicago in 2006.
As he contends for yet another term ( having been first elected to Congress in 2009 ), he talked with Windy City Times about his platforms and dedication to equality, among other things.
Windy City Times: You've done quite a few things on behalf of LGBT rights.
Mike Quigley: I guess I don't have to be introduced to the community. Working as a staffer for an alderman in the '80s and helping to start the Halsted Street Merchants and the [gay pride] parade. I was a Cook County commissioner for 10 years and helping to pass domestic-relationship benefits for county workers. Now, it's like "Of course!"but this was 20 years ago. It only passed by one vote.
WCT: It's interesting to see how far things have come.
MQ: I tell people, "It's the best of times, it's the worst of times." It's amazing progress but, at the same time, it seems like we're moving backward in a hurry. We passed gender identity [protection], which now seems way ahead of its time. However, there's painfully slow progress on the blood ban. We actually got Obama's FDA folks to make some changes, but there's still progress to be madethat's for sure.
WCT: With the way things are structured in Congress right now, are things in gridlock for the LGBT community?
MQ: Well, you're not going to codify equality. You can still get fired in this country because of your orientation [or gender identity]. It's important to have allies. We founded the Trans Equality Task Force, which is helping other communities to understand issues in the trans community.
It's not just resisting; it's continuing to move forward, educating the public and building alliances. Even if this administration was great on equality issues with the community, we would all still to be unified in the fact that he's racist, misogynistic and anti-immigrant. Discrimination against one group of Americans is discrimination against all.
These policy problems have political solutions. I was very proud to be part of changing the rules on HOPWA. I've been proud of my victories in Appropriations. Instead of playing defense, we playing offense on things such as Ryan White, Planned Parenthood and the ACA. If we flip the House [with midterm elections], things becone a lot more fun. Hopefully, this time next year, we'll talk about a blueprint for change.
Think about how much we got done with the little less than two years that we were the majority in the House and Senate, and Obama in the White House. We repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," we passed the healthcare law, we passed the climate-change bill, we passed Lilly Ledbetter so women could get paid equally.
America needed a civics lessonthat elections have consequences. The Trump administration promised to be LGBTQ-friendly. I'm looking at a picture that I have a hard time describing: candidate Trump holding up a rainbow flag"LGBTs for Trump." They just didn't fulfill those promises; they went to war on them.
Also, there's been very little media attention on his anti-LGBTQ record. They're talking about Russia and the latest crazy tweet instead. Part of my mission is to [spotlight] his anti-LGBTQ record and to make sure LGBTQ issues get their due time.
WCT: There are LGBTQ people who still support Trump. What do you say to them?
MQ: Basically, I'd say what the hell does he have to do to get you to understand that he's openly hate-filled, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobicin word and deed? He's changing the face of our country to the rest of the world that we're no longer welcoming, caringthat we were an idea and an ideal.
However, I think there are just some people we can't get to. I don't know what's deep inside them. I'm messaging the person who stayed home and isn't/wasn't engaged, or the person who hasn't made up their mind on all these things. When all this is over, we have to remind ourselves that there's more that unites us than divides us. We can't use the hate-filled rhetoric of Trump; we must concentrate on unifying. The Constitution is supposed to protect everybody.
It just isn't an LGBTQ issue. It's supposed to be "justice for all."
WCT: Let me play devil's advocate: Let's say the House is not flipped. How do you, as an individual, and the Democrats, as a party, move forward?
MQ: I'm a Cubs fan so I have to stay optimistic. [Interviewer laughs.]
The worst-case scenario is that we don't flip the House but it's close. The Republicans would need Democratic votes to get funding. So I could say, "Hey, if you want Democratic votes, then you're going to fully fund Planned Parenthood and the issues of justice." I'm prepared to use the leverage I haveand I think that leverage would increase even if we didn't flip because the Republicans are divided between the Tea Party and what's left of the moderates. I will use as much leverage as I have to help the community as much as possible. Strategy!
WCT: Gun violence has become a hot-button issue recently. What do you think should be done to curb violence? Background checks? A weapons ban?
MQ: There are two things I'm focused on. First, you don't need an assault weapon with a 30-round clip to hunt deer. The bump stocks, the multi-ammunition clip, the assault weaponsthose should all be banned. Those are not part of the Second Amendment.
We need to recognize balance as a public-health issue. We have virtually eradicated public-health scourges in our lifetime, like polio. Universal access to mental-health help is needed. How many tragedies could've been prevented if that help was available.
Violence is a public-health issue. How we treat that gets to the core of the problem. Reasonable methods to dramatically increase gun control, enforcing existing matters and prosecuting those who are trafficking into our neighborhoodsbut, ultimately, we need to get to the core of the problem and put research dollars there.
See quigleyforcongress.com/ .