I am a strong believer in safeguarding the rights of all Americans. No one deserves to be mistreated for their sexual orientation or gender identity. I remain committed to achieving full equality before the law for LGBT individuals in America and I look forward to a day when they can be both open about their identity and safe from discrimination, and when we can celebrate our vibrant, diverse community with genuine inclusion for all.
Same Sex Marriage
I believe that the civil institution of marriage should be available to gay and lesbian couples. They should be able to secure a government-issued marriage license which would be valid for all legal and financial purposes, while religious institutions should retain their right to decide which marriages they will perform.
Consequently, I was an original cosponsor of H.R. 1116, the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation in the 112th Congress that would have helped to legally define marriage in this manner. If enacted, the Respect for Marriage Act would have repealed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and restored the rights of all lawfully married couples—including same-sex couples—to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia, yet across our nation, same-sex couples face financial struggles that opposite-sex couples are shielded from by legal marriage.
I also supported President Obama’s call to ensure that all couples were treated equally in hospital visitation. Partners should not be denied access to their loved one in the hospital in a time of emergency. I saw no justifiable reason to deny these rights to same-sex couples.
I was very pleased that the Supreme Court threw out the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, 2013. As a result of that decision, the federal government can no longer discriminate against LGBT couples who have been legally married - and those couples will now enjoy the same federal benefits and protections as opposite-sex couples. The federal government's protections for married couples include the right to file jointly, deductions for health insurance coverage, Social Security survivors' benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among others.
There is still work to do. I know that all across Pittsburgh, same-sex couples are living the same lives that straight couples live -- raising children and trying to save for their education, committing to each other emotionally and financially, paying taxes, and contributing to their communities. Same-sex marriage is still not recognized in Pennsylvania. I am confident, as we travel along the arc of history, that more states will recognize same-sex marriage and all the rights that status entails.
Bullying based on sexual orientation is a very serious and pervasive problem. I am the cosponsor of several anti-bullying bills because I know how devastating such behavior can be. From the school yard to the workplace, bullying cannot be tolerated.
I believe that when children come to school, they should be free to learn without distractions. I'm a cosponsor of H.R. 1648, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, because I believe that bullying and harassment have no place in our schools. Bullying can lead to decreased interest and concentration and increased absences. At a time when the U.S. Department of Education says that bullying and harassment affect nearly one in three American school children in grades six through ten and another study concludes that a majority of students are harassed in schools, we must give teachers and parents the resources to put an end to bullying and harassment.
Additionally, I've joined with Representative Jared Polis to introduce H.R. 998, the Student Non-Discrimination Act. This bill establishes a comprehensive Federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and provides victims with meaningful and effective remedies, modeled after Title IX. I'm proud to join in this bill that's also been endorsed by the ACLU; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; HRC; National Center for Transgendered Equality; and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund.
I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 1048, Congressman Rush Holt's Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which was introduced in honor of Tyler Clementi, a college freshman who committed suicide after being bullied and harassed for his sexual orientation by other students. This legislation would require that colleges and universities that accept federal dollars explicitly prohibit this type of harassment and that they support campus anti-harassment programs. I am committed to reversing the tragic recent trends and making America a safe place for LGBT individuals.
As Americans consider these issues and courts across the country continue to grapple with the constitutionality of these questions, I believe we must fight for a society that treats everyone fairly. We will not tolerate harassment, discrimination, bullying, intimidation, or violence towards the LGBT community.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
On September 20, 2011 the U.S. ended the practice of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in our military. This policy, which began in 1993, required gay men and women to hide their sexuality or be discharged from service. Now gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military, without fear of being harassed or discharged.
On May 27, 2010, I voted along with 233 of my colleagues in the House of Representatives to repeal the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. The Senate then passed the legislation, and the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certified that the repeal was consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting, and that policies and regulations were in place for the transition.
Just as the armed forces integrated races and genders, I am very pleased that LGBT individuals are now included openly in the ranks of our military, as the misguided Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has been struck down. This was a victory for the LGBT community and for America. I believe our military and our country are stronger for respecting the dignity of gay and lesbian service members.
i am outraged and baffled by the passage of the unfortunate GOP-led House version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). On May 16th, 2012, H.R. 4970 passed the House largely on party lines, with Republican support and Democratic opposition. If enacted, this legislation would reauthorize VAWA, while stripping back current protections for victims of domestic abuse. It would also leave out the immigrant, Native American and LGBT victims of domestic violence, who are included in the Senate and the House Democrat versions of the bill. I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 4271, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which includes these communities because I see no possible justification for leaving them out. We must work to protect all victims of domestic abuse because Americans should be safe in their homes, and unafraid of violent outbreaks. The American government should not be in the business of granting immunity to abusive partners. The Republican House bill was opposed by over 320 advocacy groups, including faith-based groups, women’s organizations, civil rights groups, and domestic violence workers groups.
I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to grow up in a loving, safe, supportive and permanent home. I also believe that LGBT Americans deserve the exact same rights as heterosexual couples in the adoption process. No one in the adoption process—prospective adoptive parents or children—should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status. It is unfair and unacceptable to exclude LGBT Americans from experiencing the joys that family bring.
That's why I'm a proud cosponsor of H.R. 1681, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which prohibits any adoption or foster care entity that receives federal assistance from discriminating against the prospective parent or adoptee based solely on their sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status. This legislation is currently pending before the House Ways and Means Committee. While I do not serve on that Committee, I hope to have the opportunity to cast my vote in favor of H.R. 1681 if it comes before the full House.
As a longtime original cosponsor of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, I strongly support its swift passage and enactment into law. It is my belief that it is un-American to discriminate against people because of immutable personal characteristics including a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Such characteristics don't affect a person's ability to get their job done and they should not factor in to employment decisions. The legislation also prohibits preferential treatment and quotas with regard to these characteristics. H.R 1397 is currently pending before the House Committees on Education and the Workforce, Administration, Oversight and Government Reform, and the Judiciary.
I believe it is important that our nation's immigration policies reflect our fundamental commitment to both basic family values and equality. I believe that most Americans are able to recognize and accept that stable American families come in all shapes and sizes, and that loving, stable and committed couples deserve the right to have to be a family together. Currently, at least nineteen countries allow residents to sponsor gay and lesbian permanent partners for legal immigration, including Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, and I strongly feel it is time for the United States to join that list.
That is why I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 1024, the Uniting American Families Act, introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). If enacted, this legislation would add the term "permanent partner" to those sections of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that apply to legally married couples. "Permanent partner" is described as an adult who is in a committed, intimate relationship with another adult in "which both parties intend a lifelong commitment." This legislation would give to permanent partnerships the same immigration benefits as exist for married heterosexuals, and it would impose the same restrictions, enforcement standards and penalties as are currently in immigration law.