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Issue Position: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Issues

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

Discrimination against members of the LGBT community continues to plague this country. History has shown time and time again that systematic discrimination against any group of Americans is a threat to the freedom of all Americans. Congress must work to end all forms of government sanctioned discrimination, so every American can be treated equally.

My priorities to ensure justice for the LGBT community include:

Fighting for Marriage Equality for All Americans
Ending Don't Ask Don't Tell
Prohibiting Workplace Discrimination
Protecting the LGBT Community from Hate Crimes

Fighting for Marriage Equality for All Americans

I am a fierce supporter of same-sex marriage. As a proud cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 1116), I am working to revoke the hurtful and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I celebrated the Department of Justice's decision to no longer defend DOMA in the federal courts, and I was disappointed to see Speaker Boehner hire outside lawyers on the taxpayers dime to defend the prejudiced policy in court. I accepted the call to act by joining my fellow colleagues in the House of Representatives by signing an amicus brief, which expresses an outside opinion to federal courts, calling DOMA unconstitutional. The amicus brief:

* Explains that there is no valid federal interest in denying married gay and lesbian couples the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples married under state law. Under federal law, there are certain rights and responsibilities that are given to married couples. However, DOMA excludes married gay and lesbian couples from critical programs like Social Security, which helps ensure the wellbeing of our citizens. The fact that DOMA carves out an entire class of married citizens based on sexual orientation violates the constitution's equal protection guarantees and simply put, defies logic.

* Demonstrates that DOMA undermines Congress's interest in respecting state marriage. Marriages performed in one state are generally honored in another state, but DOMA permits states to refuse to recognize a marriage performed in another simply on the basis that the marriage is between a gay or lesbian couple. Allowing the prejudices of a narrow-minded majority to dictate a federal law is unacceptable, and using the justification that DOMA ensures the stability and welfare of American families is simply a smoke screen for a discriminatory and prejudice policy.

Ending Don't Ask Don't Tell

On May 27, 2010, I voted to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy by amending the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5136). The bill successfully passed both chambers of Congress. On September 20, 2011, after the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff confirmed the U.S. military had prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal, this discriminatory policy was finally removed from the military. Now every service member can serve with pride.

* The impact of a systematic discriminatory policy: Since 1993, over 14,000 openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual members were discharged because of DADT. Service members were deterred from protecting their country because of a personal decision regarding who they loved.

* The ability to serve as an openly gay, lesbian or bisexual service member: Patriots now are no longer forced to lie about who they are in order to serve, protect, and defend our country. Service members previously discharged under DADT will now be able to rejoin the military.

Prohibiting Workplace Discrimination

I have long been a champion for workers' rights, and LGBT employees are no exception. As a cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA, or H.R. 1397), I am working to end the legal discrimination against LGBT employees across the country. If passed by Congress, this legislation would:

* End legal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation is still legal in 29 states; discrimination based on gender identity is legal in 38 states. This bill would protect all Americans from this type of injustice.

* Extend basic civil rights protections to LGBT Americans. The bill prohibits employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions like hiring, firing, promotion or compensation. In other words, the bill is extending federal employment protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers similar to those protections already provided to persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.

Protecting the LGBT Community from Hate Crimes

There has been a federal hate crimes law since 1968 because Americans recognize that bias-motivated crimes of violence harm all of society, not just the victim. All Americans have a right to feel safe in their community. Yet hate crimes continue to be widespread and persistent: In 2010 alone, there were 7,699 reported hate crimes. But for years, LGBT Americans were not protected under the law.

That all changed when on October 22, 2009, when I voted in favor of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 2647). This bill:

* Expands the hate crimes definition to include LGBT Americans. This bill closes the current gaps in federal law to provide federal assistance in cases of a hate crime committed against persons because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

* Provides crucial federal resources to state and local agencies to equip local officers with the tools they need to prosecute hate crimes. The legislation also authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to state and local law enforcement agencies that have incurred extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

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