“I am strongly committed to working with my colleagues to ensure equal rights; the repeal of discriminatory laws; the elimination of hate-motivated violence; and to improve the health and well-being for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Fundamentally, I believe that LGBT rights are human rights.”
SUMMARY OF STANCE
I believe in the equality of individuals. I oppose discrimination in any form, whether it is based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The 47th Congressional District is home to a large and diverse LGBT community, and as a Vice Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, I have tried to be a champion for equality. I have fought to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and I will continue to fight to support all efforts to end discrimination in the workplace, in the military, in our schools, and in our everyday lives.
RELATED LEGISLATION AND ACTIONS
Introducing legislation is just one action that a member of Congress can take to address a concern or issue that impacts constituents. House Members can also introduce Congressional resolutions calling on the House (or even the full Congress) as a body to recognize or support a certain event or position on an issue. Members can write letters to government leaders requesting they take certain action, hold hearings with expert panels to address issues, work with colleagues at the committee level on specific issues, or even make direct in-person appeals to other Members or officials in the government. Here are a few examples of how I have taken action on this issue.
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.
That day—June 29, 2015—was a historic day in our national journey towards ending discrimination and extending the freedom for all Americans to live, love who they love, and prosper. In their decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court upheld our nation's fundamental values of equality, fairness, and diversity.
Most importantly, the court has made clear that not only is marriage a “fundamental right” that must include LGBT people, but to deny it would be a violation of the equal protection guaranteed by our Constitution. 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, our laws must recognize and defend that.
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 have supported). However, many advocates and allies now believe that the time has come for us to instead shift our attention to the need for Congress to pass comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination legislation.
I was proud to collaborate with my colleagues in the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus to put forward just such a bill, H.R.2282, the “Equality Act.” The Equality Act, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 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.
The time has come to put an end to discrimination against LGBT individuals. Though we have seen great victories at the Supreme Court, those decisions only underscore the need to ensure that not only do LGBT individuals have the same right to marry the person they love that I do, they should also not be able to be fired because they are gay. They should not be able to be denied housing because they are lesbian. They should not be able to be harassed at school because they are transgender. And, no American should be discriminated against, harassed, or denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ The passage of the Equality Act would bring us one step closer to that promise.
International LGBT Human Rights
As a Vice Chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, I am not just concerned about the state of LGBT equality in the United States, but also around the world. That is why I introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act.
There are currently 82 nations around the world that have enacted laws that criminalize being LGBT. Seven of these nations, including Iran and Yemen, have deemed homosexuality a crime punishable by death, and I agree with former Secretary of State John Kerry when he stated that these realities are an “affront to every reasonable conscience.”
Far too many nations have joined this growing and disturbing chorus of discrimination. Russia has passed a law that arbitrarily bans ‘homosexuality propaganda’ effectively criminalizing public statements of 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 introduced H.R.590, 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:
- Make preventing and responding to discrimination and violence against the LGBT community a foreign policy priority;
- Devise a global strategy to address discrimination against the LGBT community;
- Coordinate with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector, to promote international LGBT human rights;
- Create the position of “Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBT People” in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in the Department of State, which will be responsible for coordinating the efforts of all federal programs to defend the human rights of the LGBT community internationally; and
- Continue to include a section on the LGBT international human rights in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.
I was thrilled when the Obama Administration, under the leadership of former Secretary of State John Kerry, appointed Randy Berry to be the first Special Envoy for LGBT human rights, which underscored the Obama Administration’s commitment to LGBT Equality.
In spite of this amazing development, statements coming out of the Trump Administration reaffirm how critical it is that the International Human Rights Defense Act be passed into law to ensure that we 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 and violence 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, this bill 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 schools.
The Supreme Court decision ruling that key portions of the “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)” were unconstitutional closes a sad and discriminatory chapter in American immigration law, as well, allowing LGBT Americans to file green card applications on behalf of their foreign-born spouses; and, allowing LGBT foreign nationals to bring their spouses with them to the U.S. in the same ways that other 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 H.R.519, the “Uniting American Families Act” (UAFA), which would allow LGBT bi-national couples to petition in the same way—and with the same rigorous process of documentation—as heterosexual couples.
CAUCUSES OR MEMBERSHIPS RELATED TO ISSUE:
Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
I am a Vice-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, which promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. Our bi-partisan caucus is comprised of members of Congress who are strongly committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world. I will continue to work with more fellow caucus members to work toward 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 regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus
I am a member of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus which consists of a bipartisan group of Members of Congress who are committed to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, improving the lives of those infected with the disease, and ensuring that everyone is informed and knows their status. Through my work with the caucus my colleagues and I learn more about domestic and international HIV/AIDS programs and initiatives and define and promote research efforts that can lead to a vaccine—and eventually a cure.
For more information concerning my work and views on LGBT issues, please contact me.