Equality and human rights must be guaranteed to every American citizen -- no matter their race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ensuring equal rights for women both in this country and abroad is essential to the continued development of our nation and well being of people throughout the world. Despite much progress over the last century, women still do not get paid as much as men for the same jobs, they are too often victims of domestic and sexual violence, and women are not guaranteed equal rights even in our Constitution. Across the world, there are too many places where women are denied the right to vote, mothers are not permitted to work, and girls are barred from the classroom. Here at home, our criminal justice system must do more to end the epidemic of violence against women. As a Member of Congress and father of two daughters, I work hard to ensure that women are provided equality of pay and opportunity.
I believe that a woman's right to choose must be kept free from governmental intrusion. For years, this basic freedom has been under consistent attack by anti-choice extremists. I have consistently spoken out against efforts in Congress to infringe on women's rights. The U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade recognized the rights of a woman to make medical decisions about her own body and has established the basis for subsequent protections of this right. Everyone agrees that we need to work to provide the needed health and support services to minimize the number of unintended pregnancies in this country, but the decision to have an abortion must remain in the hands of a woman in consultation with her doctor, clergy, and family.
In addition, schools must educate older children about contraception, the prevention of pregnancy, and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, including the benefits of choosing abstinence. However, abstinence-only education has been a failure, and I continue to oppose such efforts in Congress as I did at the state level through my "Healthy Teens' legislation. In Congress, I have strongly supported both domestic and international family planning efforts to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions worldwide. Women, both in the United States and abroad, must have the power to make their own reproductive choices.
I have also long been an outspoken supporter of equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered Americans. I strongly believe that all citizens have the right to live their daily lives free from unwarranted government intrusion. LGBT Americans should have the same rights as all American citizens including the rights to have committed same-sex relationships with the right of marriage and adoption, to share partner health care benefits, to serve openly as a member of our armed forces, and to be protected against hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I am so proud that President Obama ended Don't Ask -- Don't Tell and that New York State recently legalized gay marriage. We have a long way to go in this fight for equality, but we have recently made important strides forward.