This nation can only truly prosper when all of its citizens are guaranteed equal rights and equal protection under the law and in every State. I am committed to ensuring equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. As a lawyer, judge, and Member of Congress, I have spent my entire life fighting for equal rights for all Americans and am proud of my 100 percent pro-equality voting record regarding legislation that affects the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community.
On April 29, 2009, I proudly voted in support of H.R. 1913, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Sheppard Act in memory of the 21-year old University of Wyoming student who was brutally tortured and murdered in 1998 because he was gay. On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The passage of this legislation is a testament to our resolve to end violence based on prejudice and hate and to guarantee that all Americans need not live in fear because of who they are.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
On December 15, 2010, I proudly voted in favor of H.R. 2965, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which passed by a vote of 250-175. I am pleased to share that the Senate passed this measure three days later. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 22, 2010, as Public Law 111-321.
After 17 years of controversy and debate, the 1993 law that bans open service by gay and lesbian Americans in the military will be replaced with a policy of inclusion and non-discrimination. The passage of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act confirms what the majority of service members, their families, and Americans hold true, that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation runs counter to the values that our Armed Forces embody.
I truly appreciate everything that our brave men and women in uniform do each and every single day to protect our freedom and keep us safe. Open service allows us to finally give all our troops the true recognition that they deserve. By repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the United States reaffirms its commitment to honor, integrity, and equality for all.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) gives States the "right" to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other States and, for federal purposes, defines marriage as between one man and one woman as husband and wife. Through DOMA, the federal government selectively withholds critical protections and obligations that otherwise would be afforded to legally married gay and lesbian couples.
DOMA is unconstitutional, unconscionable, and illogical. In the 111th Congress, I was a proud original co-sponsor of H.R. 3567, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009*, which repeals DOMA and would ensure that all married couples are treated equally under federal law.
Qualified, hardworking Americans are denied job opportunities, harassed, fired, or otherwise discriminated against just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. There is no federal law that consistently protects GLBT individuals from employment discrimination; it remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression. As a result, GLBT persons face serious discrimination in employment.