HR 3177

For those who may be unaware, the United States House of Representatives now has a bill in committee that would legalize discrimination based on weight. Rather than beginning the 21st Century with an eye toward ending discrimination of all types, our government is considering expanding it!

This bill was introduced by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate from the District of Columbia, but it has "C. Everett Koop " written all over it. In fact, we know for a fact that Dr. Koop did indeed author the bill, and Mrs. Norton agreed to sponsor it for him.

Lee Martindale, of Rump Parliament Magazine, has a very good editorial on the ramifications of HR 3177 at

The Big As TEXAS hands-on activism workshop addressed this bill in what we felt to be the most reliable manner.

The bill is still in committee, and we are hoping it will die there. For those of you who may not know how bills work, here's the skivvy in a nut shell: sponsored bills go to committee and the committee decides if the bill has merit. If they feel it does, they vote it "out of committee" onto the legislative floor. If they feel it is an unnecessary bill (or if they never have time to get to it), they do nothing and it "dies in committee."

Big As TEXAS activists wrote to U. S. Commerce Committee members suggesting that the government ought not to legislate people's private lives, and requested that the committee members not vote it out of committee onto the House floor.

All letters were kept very short, never mentioned the word "fat" or "obesity" ( which can send red flags up), used very polite wording, and simply said something like the following:

Dear Mr. (insert name):

I am concerned with a bill called H.R. 3177, the Lifelong Improvement in Food and Exercise. I feel that it is inappropriate for the government to try to legislate peoples' private lives. As a citizen of the Land of the Free, I would prefer that this bill not be voted onto the House floor.

Sincerely, Joe Blow

A total of 12 letters were mailed by Big As TEXAS at this workshop, and we were told that other letters were mailed after the attendees took their rough drafts home and typed them up. We made a point of selecting different committee members to write to, so that we could better assure each committee member received one letter, but not a flood of letters (another red flag!).

We tried to avoid anything that would cause the representives to take undo notice (like avoiding the word "fat" and "obese," and not inundating them with letters), because too much notice could backfire.

The bill is reprinted below, but before you read that, I want to advise you that at least 37 states have similar state laws being discussed in their respective government houses right now. The most effective way to legislate legal discrimination is not through the federal government, but state by state. At this point, only Michigan includes size as a protected category in its civil rights codes.

And now, for the bill itself:


1st Session

H. R. 3177
To amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for a national program to conduct and support activities toward the goal of significantly reducing the number of cases of overweight and obesity among individuals in the United States.


October 28, 1999
Mr. NORTON introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Commerce

To amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for a national program to conduct and support activities toward the goal of significantly reducing the number of cases of overweight and obesity among individuals in the United States.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the "Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise (LIFE) Act."


The Congress finds as follows:

(1) Obesity has increased by more than 50 percent among adults and 100 percent among children and adolescents in just the past 15 years.

(2) Fifty percent of women over 20 are overweight.

(3) Obesity is associated with many of the leading causes of death and disability, including heart disease, diabetes, certain forms of arthritis and cancer.

(4) The rising rates of obesity portend greater disease, disability and early death, and concomitant rises in health care costs and lost wages and productivity.

(5) Overweight among women is significantly outstripping overweight among men, and the problem is getting worse decade by decade.

(6) Almost 25 percent of young people, ages 6-17, are overweight and the percentage who are seriously overweight has doubled in the last 30 years.

(7) One third of young people ages 12-21 do not regularly engage in physical exercise .

(8) Part of the reason for youth inactivity is the reduction in daily participation in high school physical education classes from 42 percent in 1991 to 27 percent in 1997.

(9) The lack of activity combined with poor eating habits among children carries over to adulthood; 25 percent of adults are totally inactive and 60 percent of whom engage in too little physical activity.

(10) Chronic diseases account for 70 percent of deaths in this country and 60 percent of medical care expenditures.


Part B of title III of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 243 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 317G the following section:


"SEC. 317H. (a) IN GENERAL--The Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shall carry out a national program to conduct and support activities regarding individuals who are overweight or obese in order to make progress toward the goal of significantly reducing the number of cases of obesity among individuals in the United States.

"(b) CERTAIN ACTIVITIES--In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary shall (directly or through grants or contracts) carry out the following with respect to individuals who are overweight:

"(c) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS--For the purpose of carrying out this section, there are authorized to be appropriated $15,000,000 for fiscal year 2000, and such sums as may be necessary for each of the fiscal years 2001 through 2004."
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