Equality before the law is a basic American value articulated in our constitution. Unfortunately, America has fallen short of this ideal throughout our history of slavery, segregation and discrimination. The unfair treatment of Americans continues to this day and I support the following to make our American promise our American reality:
Nondiscrimination At Work: Every day, millions of working people have no legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and can be denied employment for reasons unrelated to their level of skills or abilities for a particular job. In a society that values diversity and treating all people with respect, as a gay man I find this unacceptable and that is why I support federal legislation that would prohibit discrimination in employment practices because of a person's sexual orientation or gender identify. This is not only about workers' rights - it's about human rights and human dignity. I believe in tolerance and understanding and strongly oppose employment discrimination on the basis of race, age, disability, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.
Marriage Equality: Millions of Americans can't enjoy the legal protections of marriage because of their orientation. I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to enjoy full marriage rights in the United States and that no federal, state, or local jurisdiction should be able to deny any of the benefits of the marriage to same-sex couples. The so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" must be repealed.
Equal Rights Amendment: The fight for equality for women is far from over and that is why I support the Equal Rights Amendment to our federal constitution. I strongly believe that all Americans should have dignity, respect, and full equality on the job and oppose discrimination of any kind and support the ERA.
Human Rights Advocacy: America should not only be an example of human rights, it should also be a champion worldwide by rewarding countries that practice the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and taking the lead to stop genocide.
Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": I believe it is absurd that our nation does not allow our gay and lesbian soldiers to be open and honest with their commanding officers and fellow service members. To strengthen our national defense, we must cease the removal of capable and courageous members of our military based exclusively on their openness about their sexual orientation, which will bring us in line with the policy of nearly every NATO country. Instead, we should recruit and enlist a military that truly represents America's best in all of our colors, religions, and sexual diversity.
Hate Crimes: Hate crimes occur every day and in every state, perpetuating a climate of fear in minority communities--including the LGBT community. What makes these crimes so odious is that they are not just crimes against an individual; they are crimes against entire communities and the very values and ideals upon which our country was founded. Making matters worse, most local law enforcement agencies currently lack the necessary resources to effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. To address this issue, I became an original cosponsor of H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009 increasing federal authority to investigate and prosecute such crimes and help local communities tackle the problem more effectively. Specifically, it also expands existing federal hate crimes laws to cover crimes committed because of the victim's gender or sexual orientation.
Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act: In June 2009, President Obama called for equal employment benefits for federal employees and issued an executive memorandum that granted some benefits to employees' same-sex partners. Recently, Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation that would fully extend those benefits to match ones that spouses of non-LGBT employees receive.
It is time that the federal government steps up and recognizes the miscarriage of justice happening in its own backyard. A large and growing number of America's major corporations, as well as state and local governments and educational institutions, have extended their employee benefit programs to cover their employees' committed domestic partners. We can look to over half of the Fortune 500 companies that now offer health benefits to employees' domestic partners, up from just 25 percent in 2000. Overall, more than 8,000 private-sector companies make such benefits available to employees' domestic partners, as do several hundred state and local governments, colleges and universities.
I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would bring the federal government's employee policy up to speed with a majority of Fortune 500 companies. Finally benefits that employees have come to expect, such as disability, family, medical, emergency leave and long-term-care insurance will be available to LGBT employees and their partners.