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Unwavering Support for Equality

I recognize that a critical part of protecting our civil rights and freedoms includes the responsibility to support those communities which, historically, have been marginalized, under siege, or disadvantaged. Thanks in part to the many members of  the LGBTQ community I’ve admired and the courageous men and women in the military with whom I’ve fought to defend this country’s freedoms, I am committed to fighting for and championing the LGBTQ community’s safety, equality, and constitutional rights.

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During college, I was asked to review a thesis my girlfriend had written about why Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would be harmful to the military. I did not agree that it was negative for members of the LGBTQ community to serve in the military, and I said so. She broke up with me as a consequence. That conversation was a bit of a wake up call for me. I think we all continue to be surprised that, despite the progress society has made, discrimination, at times even virulent or lethal discrimination like that at the scene of the Pulse nightclub, continues to exist. I determined then to always defend the rights of the LGBT community, regardless of the expectations of whomever I was addressing. Without the leadership of that community, we would have lost the services of some of the most courageous and highly decorated soldiers on the battlefield. Twenty years later I had the opportunity to work with Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey, Jr. to create the message around the implementation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, an achievement of which I’m particularly proud.

Add Gender Identity to Public Accommodation Protections

Socalledbathroom bills”, introduced by various conservative states, have attempted to mandate public bathroom use, restricting it to the bathroom that matches the sex displayed on one’s birth certificate.

As Time Magazine put it:

Bathrooms and fights for civil rights go hand-in-hand. In the Jim Crow era, bathrooms — along with water fountains and lunch counters — were places that might be marked with “white only” signs. The bathroom has also been a battleground for women and handicapped workers fighting for equal treatment in the workplace. Because of the nature of things people do in the bathroom, it can be a space where they feel exposed or vulnerable and therefore resist change. It is also, as transgender icon Janet Mock says, ‘the great equalizer for all of us.’

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These bills are not just discriminatory and wrong; they can also have devastating effects on public health, with transgender/gender non-conforming people being harassed, assaulted and victimized by physical violence in gender segregated bathrooms. “Bathroom bills” can also lead to extremely negative results for a state’s economy. Many dozens of our country’s largest and wealthiest corporations have come out against them with statements threatening economic retaliation against states who enact them. These statements often cite the need for equality in workplace recruitment and practices and the desire not be associated with regressive thinking and discriminatory practices.

In Congress, I will sign on as a co-sponsor to Rep. Cicilline’s Equality Act, which “amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.”

Extend Protections for LGBT Students

According to the proposed Student Non-Discrimination Act, “Students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) are subject to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence. They have been deprived of equal educational opportunities in schools in every part of our nation. Numerous studies demonstrate that discrimination at school has contributed to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement among LGBTQ youth. When left unchecked, such discrimination can lead to, and has led to, dangerous situations for young people.

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“Federal statutory protections address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and disability. Unfortunately, federal civil rights laws do not expressly protect students from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Decades of civil rights history show that civil rights laws are effective in decreasing discrimination because they provide strong federal remedies targeted to specific vulnerable groups.“

The Act “would explicitly prohibit public K-12 schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, SNDA would prohibit discrimination against any student because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom a student associates or has associated. Further, retaliation for lodging a complaint of discrimination would be prohibited. The bill would allow an aggrieved individual to assert a violation of these prohibitions in a judicial proceeding. In addition, SNDA would allow federal authorities to address discrimination made unlawful by the bill.”

In Congress, I will sign on as a co-sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

I will also sign on as a co-sponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act.

Equality in Federal Contracting

Trump’s Rescision of Fair Play and Safe Workplaces Executive Order is wrong. “Trump rescinded the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, also known as Executive Order 13673, that President Obama issued in 2014. That order required companies wishing to contract with the federal government to show that they’ve complied with various federal laws…in tandem with Executive Order 13672, which prohibited contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This is a discriminatory and regressive step that could have a substantial impact on the ability of members of the LGBTQ community to get and retain gainful employment, one of the pillars of equality under the law.

I will work with like-minded lawmakers to restore and codify these previous protections.

Stand Up for LGBT Citizens Abroad

As reported by Newsweek, “a confluence of international and domestic forces has created a perfect storm for anti-gay legislation [in foreign countries such as Russia and Uganda where harsh sentences are imposed for homosexual activity]. It is common for weak governments to demonize a minority community to shore up domestic support.

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“Meanwhile, [certain ultra conservative] …United States groups export American culture wars to  territories more amenable to intolerance towards gays than can be found in America, where progress is fast being made towards ensuring equality irrespective of sexual orientation.”

These types of repressive and discriminatory laws, universally condemned by human rights groups, are unacceptable.  

I will fight alongside global human rights groups to bring pressure to mitigate and reverse these harsh and discriminatory laws.

Conversion Therapy is Immoral

Conversion therapy, the pseudo-scientific effort to convert people from homosexual to heterosexual orientation, has no basis in scientific fact and is in fact frequently considered harmful. It is immoral and wrong, in addition to being ineffective and often resulting in negative outcomes.

I will push for a federal ban on conversion therapy.