Our Constitution enshrines the core American value that all people should be treated equally. Since coming to Congress, I have worked to extend equal rights to every citizen.
Voting is a defining act of American citizenship, and we need to do more – not less – to ensure everyone can exercise that fundamental right. Unfortunately, last year the Supreme Court struck down a key component of the Voting Rights Act, the formula that compelled specific states with a history of voting discrimination to clear their voting changes with the federal government. I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, but I am fighting to restore the Voting Rights Act. The bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R. 3899), which I support, drafts a new formula to revive the Voting Rights Act. I will continue doing everything I can to get this bill passed into law as quickly as possible so that this and future generations of Americans will have an equal opportunity to vote.
We have made enormous progress over the past few years towards ensuring equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. In my first term, I was proud to join my colleagues in consigning the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to the proverbial trash bin of history so that our brave men and women in uniform can serve openly and honorably in our Armed Forces. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now allow gay couples to marry, and thanks to an important ruling by the Supreme Court, the federal government now recognizes those marriages. I am a cosponsor of legislation that would fully repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” to ensure that no matter where in this country you live, your marriage will be fully respected.
But despite this important progress, there is more work we must do – and as a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, I am committed to seeing this through to the end. In many states, it is still legal for an employer to fire an employee solely based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. I am a proud cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit this kind of discrimination. I joined over 100 of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to sign an Executive Order prohibiting companies that do business with the federal government from discriminating against LGBT people. I also cosponsor legislation to prohibit discrimination in housing, credit, immigration sponsorship, and federally-assisted adoption agencies. We have made tremendous progress in extending equal rights to LGBT Americans, and working together I am confident we can do even more.
Equal Rights for Women
As a father of two girls, I’m committed to a future where my daughters are given the same opportunities and treated with the same amount of respect as men.
I was proud to cast one of my first votes in Congress for the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to restore a woman’s right to challenge unfair pay. However, with the average woman still making only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes working the same job, it is clear we have more work to do. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 377), sponsored by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. This bill allows the victims of gender-based pay discrimination equal claim for civil action as those receiving discriminatory pay based on race. It also expands the basis by which discrimination can be claimed by broadening pay comparison methods and protects employees who discuss pay information with each other from retaliation by their employer.
There are few issues more divisive or personal than that of reproductive rights. I am fiercely supportive of a woman's reproductive freedom and have stood time and time again against efforts by the House Majority to roll back a woman’s right to make her own choices. I believe that women must be able to make their own decisions about their health without fear of government intrusion. That is why I cosponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prohibit any current or future state laws that impose requirements or restrictions specifically on reproductive services that are more burdensome than those for comparable procedures. I also believe there is more we can and must do to achieve the goals shared on both sides of this issue. I have and will continue to support efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancies through the availability of critical family planning services and access to comprehensive sex education. Through common-sense efforts, I hope to find opportunities to put differences aside and work in common purpose to ensure that potential parents are empowered to make good choices and every child grows up in a stable, loving family.