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Public Statements

Issue Position: Civil Rights

Issue Position

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"After 9-11, the President had a historic opportunity to unite Americans and the world in common cause. Instead, by exploiting the politics of fear, instigating an optional war in Iraq before finishing a necessary war in Afghanistan and instituting policies on torture, detainees and domestic surveillance that fly in the face of our values and interests, President Bush divided Americans from each other and from the world."

Protecting American Values and Civil Liberties

Prohibiting Torture: Joe Biden believes that US law and international law prohibit torture. His National Security with Justice Act would reform policies on the apprehension, detention, treatment and transfer of detainees. The legislation unambiguously prohibits any United States personnel, including members of our intelligence services, from torturing and mistreating detainees. Specifically, the bill prohibits all officers and agents of the United States from using techniques of interrogation not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

Stopping Extraordinary Rendition and Closing CIA "Black Sites": Joe Biden would prohibit U.S. detention of terrorism suspects in secret, extraterritorial prisons such as CIA "black sites." Under his National Security with Justice Act, the United States must transfer terrorism suspects to legal custody in the United States or a foreign country that will not torture or mistreat them. He would also require intelligence services to apply for and obtain an order of rendition - similar to an arrest warrant - from the FISA Court prior to any rendition. The application and order process ensures that rendition is used only if we have solid intelligence indicating that the suspect is a dangerous terrorist.

Restoring Habeas Corpus: Joe Biden believes that anyone in US custody should be able, at a minimum, to have a court review his or her case.

Ending Discrimination

Equal Work, Equal Paycheck: Today, with women still earning 77 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same work, Joe Biden is a strong supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act. It would help prevent pay discrimination by strengthening penalties should it occur. Joe Biden also supported increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15, where it had been stuck for 10 years, giving 13 million workers a pay raise.

Stopping Discrimination at Work: While workplace discrimination is not as obvious as when the Joe Biden's ancestors faced "No Irish Need Apply," signs, today minorities, women, and gays hear excuses like, "she won't fit in," or "he's too qualified," as employers pass on them. It may be subtle, but it's hate in the heart, nevertheless. So Joe Biden supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit job discrimination of any kind. He also supports the Fair Pay Restoration Act to overturn a Supreme Court decision that makes it more difficult for women to bring pay discrimination cases.

Punishing Hate Crimes: Joe Biden is a strong supporter of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act to expand federal and state coordination to fight hate crimes. Every year more than 7,000 hate crimes are committed. Joe Biden believes these acts not only hurt victims, they damage the values that are America. The Act would enable the Justice Department to assist local agencies in investigating and prosecuting crimes, and would expand the definition of hate crimes to include offenses based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Joe Biden also supports the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act which would dedicate resources at the Department of Justice and FBI to re-open unsolved murders from the civil rights era.

Equal Access at the Ballot Box: Today, there are more than 9,000 black and 6,000 Latino elected officials, largely due to the Voting Rights Act which put an end to literacy tests and poll taxes in the 1960s. In the early 1980s, Joe Biden helped expand the Act, and has consistently strongly advocated the Act's renewal. He believes that more must be done to stop misleading voters, and to ensure votes are counted. He would: put a stop to deceptive practices - like passing out fliers telling people to vote on the wrong day; require electronic voting systems to have a paper trail; and make sure states adequately train poll workers.

Ending Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation: Joe Biden believes legal recognition should not be denied same-sex couples. He advocates for re-examining federal laws, to ensure our national laws are not unfair to same-sex couples, and that committed adults who are adopting are not discriminated against because of sexual orientation. He supports letting states determine how to recognize civil unions and define marriage.

Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Joe Biden supports ending the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy. Twenty-four of the nations serving alongside U.S. forces in Iraq permit open service, and it has no negative impact on their forces or the morale of the soldiers. He believes turning away patriotic Americans who volunteer to serve solely because of their sexual orientation is wrong.

Expanding Educational Opportunities: The importance of a college degree has never been greater, yet over the next decade 2 million students will not attend college because of costs. Senator Biden believes that college should not become a luxury good. His College ACCESS legislation would: provide a $3,000 refundable tax credit that would fully cover the average cost of tuition and fees at a two-year college, or cover more than half the cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year college, and expand Pell Grants to low-income students to $6,300.

Protecting Worker Rights to Bargain Collectively: Joe Biden is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill to ensure workers can form, join, or assist labor unions without interference from employers.

Ending The Crack-Powder Sentencing Disparity: In 1986, Congress established a draconian sentencing scheme that punished the crack form of cocaine far more severely than the powder form. Currently, mere possession of 5 grams of crack triggers a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, while it takes distribution or manufacture of 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger that same sentence. The assumptions that led Congress to establish this disparity - that crack is inherently more dangerous and addictive than powder, that crack would devastate communities, and that prenatal exposure to crack was far more damaging than exposure to powder - have proved unfounded. Joe Biden has proposed legislation to implement the US Sentencing Commission's recommendation to eliminates the 100:1 disparity between the two forms of the drug. He also supports increasing funding for prison- and jail-based drug treatment programs.


Protecting Affirmative Action: Senator Biden has been a strong supporter of affirmative action. He opposed attempts to ban affirmative action in federal contracts and to bar funds to administer affirmative action programs.

Helping Americans With Disabilities: Senator Biden always has been a strong supporter of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He has long championed efforts to allow Medicaid to provide home- and community-based support services needed by disabled individuals to remain out of institutions. He also fought to allow low-income families with disabled children to buy into the Medicaid program.

Protecting Against Genetic Discrimination: Senator Biden has fought to prohibit employers and insurance companies from collecting or using genetic information when making decisions about hiring, providing health coverage, or discriminating in the pricing of an insurance policy.

Preserving the Privacy of Medical Records: Senator Biden knows how important it is to patients that their personal medical information be kept private. He supports: making sure individuals' medical information is not used against them or unknowingly sold for commercial profit, and ensuring that as we move toward more efficient, cost-saving electronic medical records, privacy interests remain a priority.

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr: Senator Biden was an original co-sponsor of the bill to designate a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and helped guide its passage through the Senate.

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