Human Rights for All Americans
Our nation's greatness is built on the diversity and breadth of our land and our population. Our cities and towns grow strong when all inhabitants are included and invested in the community's well-being. Every American citizen--regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation--deserves fundamental fairness and the full range of human rights. These rights affect everyone's ability to earn a living, receive fair treatment under the law, and create a family as part of a larger community. Only when all Americans have full and equal access to the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship will we achieve our nation's full potential.
The principles of fairness and inclusion must be an integral part of federal policy decisions. I will advocate leveling the playing field in economic opportunities, justice and sentencing policy, public service, and family and personal civil rights for all of our citizens.
Equal economic opportunities
The recent debacle in the financial sector exposes underlying inequities in the ways banks treat minority and lower-income clients. Pending regulation working its way through Congress needs to be strengthened, focusing on the elimination of predatory lending practices as well as excessive financial risk-taking.
Municipalities in the 15th District can only be as strong as their weakest parts. Strengthening entrepreneurship in disadvantaged areas allows communities to increase their tax base, engage their citizenry more fully, and spend less on crisis management. Although the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expands the Small Business Administration's mission with additional capital and outreach programs for minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses, more efforts need to target low-income and economically disadvantaged sectors of our communities.
Equal justice and sentencing policies
Our justice system is arguably the best in the world, and yet it is by no means perfect. Serious disparities exist in racial profiling, crack versus powder cocaine sentencing guidelines, use of force policies, and arrests for marijuana use and other non-violent crimes. The Obama administration has signaled its support for legislative changes to ensure parity in our sentencing laws, policy, and practices, and to address problems associated with unequal enforcement of criminal law. I support giving law enforcement and the courts the tools they need to combat crime, but our justice system needs to be based on common sense and fairness to all.
I applaud the recent passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, extending the definition of federal hate crime to crimes motivated by the victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
Equal rights to public service
At a time when our nation is conducting two wars and sending troops to Haiti for disaster relief, we cannot afford to lose highly qualified and dedicated officers and enlisted personnel. The policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is both discriminatory to the individuals affected and destructive to military unit cohesion. It is time that we join the 31 other nations of the world--virtually all of them allies of the U.S.--and repeal this arbitrary and counter-productive law.
Equal rights for families
Contracting marriage, starting a family, caring for a loved one in sickness, and providing financial security for one's spouse are fundamental to the concept of human rights. Even more, these activities connect individuals with their communities and invest human capital in our society. Married couples pay lower federal taxes on average than unmarried individuals. They lead healthier lives and are more likely to have access to health insurance. American culture is strengthened when we allow all citizens to participate fully in the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship. Most of Europe, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and the municipalities of Mexico City and Buenos Aires allow civil marriage for same-sex couples. I will pursue repeal of the "Defense of Marriage Act" in order to extend full citizenship to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
As your next Congressman, I will be a strong progressive voice for equality and fairness in economic opportunity, policing and sentencing, and fundamental human rights.