“As a Vice Chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, I am strongly committed to working with my colleagues towards the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and well-being for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in June 2015 to uphold equality for all Americans starts to close a dark chapter in our nation’s journey to ensure equal protection under the law. This is the kind of protection and judicial action all Americans deserve.
Most importantly, the court has made clear that not only is marriage a "fundamental right" that must be extended to LGBT people, but to deny it would be a violation of equal protection. This momentous decision will be long remembered for bringing respect, dignity, and stability to millions of LGBT families by recognizing what we already knew: that love is love. LGBT families are equal in every way with other families.Comprehensive Nondiscrimination Protections Historically, the strategy for ensuring LGBT individuals are protected from discrimination has happened in a very piecemeal way; there was the Juror nondiscrimination Act, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and the Social Security and Medicare Parity Act (all of which I am a cosponsor of. However, many advocates and allies now believe that the time has come for us to instead shift our attention to Congress passing comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation.
I was proud to collaborate with my colleagues in the House LGBT Equality Caucus to put forward just such a bill, the Equality Act (H.R.3185). I am an original co-sponsor of this critical legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals in public accommodations, housing, employment, and other core areas of daily life.
There are currently 82 nations around the world that have enacted laws that criminalize the LGBT community. Seven of these nations, including Iran and Yemen, have deemed homosexuality a crime punishable by death, and I agree with Secretary of State John Kerry when he stated that these developments are an “affront to every reasonable conscience.”
Far too many nations have joined this growing and disturbing chorus of discrimination. Russia passed a law that arbitrarily bans ‘homosexuality propaganda’ effectively criminalizing public support for LGBT equality. This law has been the basis for similar legislation threatened or introduced in countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus. India’s Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and reinstated the criminalization of homosexuality in the second most populous nation on earth. Nigeria, Uganda, and Gambia have all passed laws that make homosexuality a crime punishable with life imprisonment.
Because of these alarming developments, I reintroduced the International Human Rights Defense Act. This bill calls on the State Department to continue its efforts to defend the human rights of LGBT people internationally and to:
I was thrilled when Secretary Kerry recently appointed Randy Berry to be the first Special Envoy for LGBT human rights, which just underscores the Obama Administration’s commitment to LGBT Equality. In spite of this amazing development, it is still critical that the International Human Rights Defense Act be passed into law to ensure that all future administrations continue to defend our core value of equality in our dealings with other nations.Student Safety and Bullying Prevention
Sadly, LGBT youth face just as much—if not more--discrimination as LGBT adults. That is why I am also a cosponsor of H.R.846, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, introduced by my colleague Congressman Jared Polis. This bill would protect students from bullying and harassment by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools. Additionally, H.R. 846 will ensure that all students have access to public education in a safe environment free from pervasive discrimination. No child should be the victim of bullying, harassment, or discrimination, and I will continue to support measures to combat bullying and discrimination in Congress.
The Supreme Court decision ruling that key portions of DOMA are unconstitutional closes a discriminatory chapter in American immigration law, as well, allowing LGBT Americans to file green card applications on behalf of their foreign spouses; and, allowing LGBT foreign nationals to bring their spouses with them to the U.S. in the same ways that straight foreign nationals can.
Before the ruling on DOMA, American families—many of whom have children together—were forced to choose between their country and their family. This is a choice no one should have to make. As a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), H.R. 519, which would allow lesbian and gay bi-national couples to petition in the same way—and with the same rigorous process of documentation—as heterosexual couples, my hope is that we end the anguish that these couples often face at the constant threat of deportation of one spouse simply because of the fact that we deny all Americans the right to marry whomever they choose.
For more information concerning my work and views on LGBT issues, please contact me.