I first ran for office almost 10 years ago after a terrible meeting with my then-State Representative, Vincent Ciampa. As a 25-year-old activist, I tried to explain how important the issue of marriage equality was to me and to many others, but he didn't care and stood firm in his opposition to marriage equality. Spurred by this conversation through an extremely negative and homophobic campaign, with the help of an incredible group of supporters, I outworked Ciampa and won.
I had run on a promise to champion equal rights on Beacon Hill, and in one of my first acts as a state legislator, I spoke on the floor about the importance of marriage equality, what it meant to me as an openly-gay legislator, and why my fellow legislators should vote against a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. And in 2007, I introduced the Transgender Equal Rights Bill so that people with different gender identities would not be discriminated against when applying for an apartment or a job. Governor Patrick signed that bill into law in 2011.
I am so proud of how far our state and our country has come over the past 10 years. Yet we still have a long way to go. In Congress I will lead the fight to include transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act so that no one may be discriminated against simply for expressing who they are. And while I applaud the Supreme Court's decision invalidating Section 3 of DOMA, we must go further to ensure that same-sex families across this country are afforded the same legal protections, benefits, and tax treatments as heterosexual families.
Furthermore, we need to take the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell a step further and open the door for transgender people to serve openly in the military. Transgender people already serve, but are currently forced to keep their true identities hidden from view. After 13 deployments and more than 20 years of service, former Navy SEAL and decorated veteran Kristin Beck recently came out as transgender, saying, "I fought for 20 years for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I want some happiness." In Congress, I will fight for people like Ms. Beck so they can serve their country as openly as they already do honorably.
But legal equality alone is not enough. We must also fight for equal status back home in our communities, and the best place to teach acceptance and open-mindedness is in our schools. In Congress, I will work to give teachers the resources they need to recognize and prevent bullying in schools, including bullying based on a child's sexual or gender identity. I will also push for programs to engage with students directly, so they can all learn and grow in an environment accepting of each other's differences. Starting in our schools, we should work together toward a world where all children and all adults are free to express themselves fully and without fear.
Because of my leadership on these issues, I have earned the endorsements of the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and MassEquality in my race for Congress.