Last week I told you about the urgent action needed to stop a bill seeking to water down Illinois' potent gender identity and sexual orientation inclusive employment non-discrimination law. Republican gubernatorial front-runner, Bill Brady, had quietly introduced a bill to expand "religious exemptions" so much that the law would be nearly nullified. Bill Brady had been vehemently against the law when it was initially introduced, back when he was in the lower house. Now a Senator and GOP Governor hopeful, Brady was seeking to use transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual folks in Illinois to court favor in rural areas, and shore up his conservative base.
Brady is a right wing nut job. He needn't worry about his conservative base. I don't use nut job loosely. Brady is currently campaigning on--among other things--a strong "reform" platform--specifically touting campaign finance reform and term limits. One of the longest serving lawmakers in the Assembly, Brady voted against campaign finance reform bills numerous times, and also voted against a term limits bill. I'm confused.
Looks like Brady is a little off his rocker. However, the move to get SB3447 passed under the radar is no laughing matter. The law would have undone crucial protections for Illinois's LGBT population. Illinois's LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination law is one of the strongest in the nation. Certainly, getting this religious exemption expansion passed under our noses, in a Democratic assembly, would be a huge win for anti-gay activists. They would likely use the win as a blueprint to start stripping rights away from gays, lesbians and transgender people around the nation. No doubt, the Illinois Family Institute--one of the few certified anti-gay Hate Group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center--was watching these proceedings very closely.
In fact, IFI's fingerprints are all over this effort. Sneaking something under the radar when the rest of us are watching the primaries unfold, and using one of their favorite lawmakers, Bill Brady, to do it. A search of the IFI's website for names of lawmakers shows Bill Brady's named used favorably in every usage, although it doesn't look like the IFI has officially endorsed him. The hate groups are mobilized and they've got their puppet in place.
Early this week, however, Equality Illinois declared the bill "dead." According to ChicagoPride.com:
An anti-gay bill authored by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady is dead, thanks to the efforts of Illinois gay activists.
Equality Illinois just announced that Senate bill 3447, which aimed to allow certain tax-exempt organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and religion, is dead. The bill never made it out of a Senate Judiciary committee. In an email to supporters, Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov said that thousands of Illinoisans called or emailed their state legislators in opposition to the bill and these efforts helped stop it dead in its tracks.
Brady wrote the bill, but later removed his name as chief sponsor.
The Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, passed in 2005. SB3447 sought to eliminate some of the Act's provisions. If the bill had passed, the Human Rights Act would not have applied to the employment practices of religious organizations, associations, societies and non-profits.
The bill has been reassigned to the committee on Assignments, which is good news for us, but does not mean the bill is "dead."
According to Senate Rules 3-7, 3-8 and 3-9, the Committee on Assignments may re-refer that bill to another committee at any time. This probably isn't very likely, but it's something we need to be on the lookout for.
In the mean time, LGBT activists in states with employment non-discrimination laws need to be vigilant about watching for similar attacks. The far right is well-organized and mobilized, and nothing they do happens in a bubble. If hate group IFI is pushing to bring back employment discrimination in Illinois, you can bet they're in close contact with other anti-equality state groups around the nation, walking them through the process.
We are relying on our state-wide LGBT advocacy groups and our openly-gay lawmakers now more than ever to keep a close eye on these state chambers to watch for similar attacks on hard-won equality. This is why the need for openly gay lawmakers is now more crucial than ever. We need one of our own in every chamber of every legislature to make sure we don't get the wool pulled over our eyes again. Illinois does not have an openly gay member in the Senate, which is most likely why the IFI tried to slide it into the hearings in the upper house first. Electing an openly-gay Senator to the Illinois Senate in 2012 is now more crucial than ever. We need a truly fierce advocate there.
Check out my blog "What's Wrong With Bill Brady" to learn more about his anti-gay ways, as well as my column in this month's Out & About Illinois Magazine "The Disaster of Bill Brady."