Sheldon Whitehouse on Civil Rights
Democratic Jr Senator, previously attorney general
CHAFEE: The federal government has never been involved in marriage issues. So this is a state issue.
WHITEHOUSE: I support the right of states to allow same-sex marriage. It is wrong for the federal government to intervene in what has always been a state issue -- the regulation of marriage. I think it is particularly wrong to amend the Constitution to single out gay people and prevent them from exercising their rights.
A: You can look back to the civil war to see constitutional problems like [amendments that single out gay people]. There was a time when in the US Constitution, black slaves were counted as 3/5ths of a human. It is absolutely wrong for us to use the Constitution to divide Americans. The Constitution, which I revere, gives us as citizens rights against the government. It should never be used by the government to divide us for its own political purposes.
A: I support gay marriage, and believe states and localities should be able to legally recognize them. I will oppose a Federal Marriage Amendment and any attempt to write discrimination into the Constitution. I’ve backed tougher sentences for hate crimes, and if elected, I fight for real equality for all Americans.
If he’s elected to the Senate, he may have an opportunity to vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment promoted by conservatives to define marriage as between one man and one woman. What does Whitehouse, who has a background as a constitutional and civil rights lawyer, think of it? “It’s disgraceful that they are trying to push that,” he answered. “I would fight as hard as I could to keep that from happening,“ Whitehouse continued. ”It would be one of those things when I was an old grandfather my grandchildren would look up to me and say, ‘Grandpa, why did you ever let that happen? Where were you? How could you have done such a thing? I read that in the history books.’ That is, if they were not too embarrassed to bring it up with me. It’s so shameful.“
His campaign had provided a statement endorsing lifting the ban on military service to EDGE for a story on how members of the state’s Congressional delegation stand on a repeal bill pending in the House of Representatives. “I think the legislation should go forward and I think we should move towards open status for gays in the military,” Whitehouse reiterated. “Right now, as you know, there are hundreds, thousands, if not tens of thousands of gay folks serving courageously and dutifully in the military. That the government should require them to deny their status and pretend to be something other than they are in order to serve their country is a mistake.”
Opponent's Argument for voting No (The Week; Huffington Post, and The Atlantic): House Republicans had objected to provisions in the Senate bill that extended VAWA's protections to lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans. For example, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) voted against the VAWA bill because it was a "politically–motivated, constitutionally-dubious Senate version bent on dividing women into categories by race, transgender politics and sexual preference." The objections can be grouped in two broadly ideological areas--that the law is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and that it represents a "feminist" attack on family values. The act's grants have encouraged states to implement "mandatory-arrest" policies, under which police responding to domestic-violence calls are required to make an arrest. These policies were intended to combat the too-common situation in which a victim is intimidated into recanting an abuse accusation. Critics also say VAWA has been subject to waste, fraud, and abuse because of insufficient oversight.
Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by covered entities (employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees). Prohibits preferential treatment or quotas. Allows only disparate treatment claims. Prohibits related retaliation.
JOINT RESOLUTION: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women. Constitutional Amendment: Prohibits denying or abridging equality of rights under the law by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
[Explanatory note from Wikipedia.com and OnTheIssues.org]:
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress, but failed to gain ratification before its June 30, 1982 deadline. This new proposed amendment is identical in wording to the original 1972 proposed amendment. It was proposed in Congress in every session from 1923 through 1970 prior to passing in 1972; and has been re-introduced in Congress in every session since 1982 after its failure at ratification. The current version removes the Congressionally imposed deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, so that if the bill passes Congress, states have no deadline as they did in 1982.
The Feminist Majority endorses candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. In addition to the stronger "endorsement," the organization also determines "preferred" candidates in races where they do not endorse. Their mission statement:
"Our mission is to empower feminists, who are the majority, and to win equality for women at the decision-making tables of the state, nation, and the world. The Feminist Majority promotes non-discrimination on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, age, marital status, nation of origin, size or disability. The purpose of Feminist Majority is to promote equality for women and men, non-violence, reproductive health, peace, social justice and economic development and to enhance feminist participation in public policy. Feminist Majority supports workers’ collective bargaining, pay equity, and end of sweatshops. We encourage programs directed at the preservation of the environment."
Opponent's argument against bill:(by Cato Institute reported on Fox News): A bill in Congress that would prohibit discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity could stifle free speech and even lead to "homosexual indoctrination" in the nation's classrooms, critics say.
"The real danger is how this will be interpreted," said the associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute. "The definition of harassment could be broadly interpreted that anybody who expressed a totally legitimate opinion about homosexual behavior could be made illegal. That's a violation of those kids who want to express opposition to LGBT opinions or behavior. People have a legitimate reason to be concerned about this--not because they're 'haters' but because you're now trying to balance different rights."
Proponent's argument for bill: (Rep. Jared POLIS, House sponsor): "Hatred has no place in the classroom. Every student has the right to an education free from harassment and violence. This bill will protect the freedoms of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in the classroom."
Congressional Summary: Amends the Defense of Marriage Act to let states recognize same sex marriage. Defines "marriage" to provide that an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the state or country where the marriage was entered into. Removes the definition of "spouse" (currently, a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife).
Wikipedia and GLAAD history: In United States v. Windsor (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) struck down the act's provisions disallowing same-sex marriages to be performed under federal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court case did not challenge Section 2 of DOMA. Section 2 declares that all states have the right to deny recognition of the marriage of same sex couples that originated in states where they are legally recognized.
Heritage Foundation recommendation to vote NO: (3/20/2013): Americans respect marriage, not only as a crucial institution of civil society but the fundamental building block of all human civilization. This is why 41 states and the federal government affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman. The government isn't in the business of affirming our loves. Rather it leaves consenting adults free to live and love as they choose. And contrary to what some say, there is no ban on same-sex marriage. In all 50 states, two people of the same sex may choose to live together, and choose to join a religious community that blesses their relationship. What's at issue is whether the government will recognize such relationships as marriages--and compel others to recognize and affirm same-sex relationships as marriages.
Legislative outcome: Died in Committee (never came to a vote).
We write to you to express serious concerns about the removal of critical LGBT health and scientific information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, and the removal of LGBT population-based data reports from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website. These actions reveal a pattern of censorship that fosters discrimination and undermines access to evidence-based health care resources that aid millions across the country.
Administration officials claim that this online information is integrated elsewhere, being updated, or temporarily down for maintenance. We have seen previous Administrations undermine LGBT health due to ideological pressure from conservative organizations by abruptly deleting online health information--similarly under the guise of site maintenance.
Sen. LIEBERMAN: This legislation would require the Government to extend employee benefit programs to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees. It is sound public policy and it makes excellent business sense.
Under our bill, Federal employee and the employee's domestic partner would be eligible to participate in benefits to the same extent that married employees and their spouses participate. Employees and their partners would also assume the same obligations that apply to married employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.
The Federal Government is our Nation's largest employer and should lead other employers, rather than lagging behind, in the quest to provide equal and fair compensation and benefits to all employees. That thousands of Federal workers who have dedicated their careers to public service and who live in committed relationships with same-sex domestic partners receive fewer protections for their families than those married employees is patently unfair and, frankly, makes no economic sense.
I call upon my colleagues to express their support for this important legislation. It is time for the Federal Government to catch up to the private sector, not just to set an example but so that it can compete for the most qualified employees and ensure that all of our public servants receive fair and equitable treatment. It makes good economic and policy senses. It is the right thing to do.
SUMMARY: Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2007
"Despite passage of the Equal Pay Act & the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, discrimination against women continues to permeate the workforce and many areas of the economy. Today, women earn about 77 cents for each dollar earned by men, and the gap is even greater for women of color. More than 60% of working women are still clustered in a narrow range of traditionally female, traditionally low-paying occupations, and female-headed households continue to dominate the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.
"A stronger effort is clearly needed to finally live up to our commitment of full equality. The ERA alone cannot remedy all discrimination, but it will clearly strengthen the ongoing efforts of women across the country to obtain equal treatment.
"We know from the failed ratification experiences of the past that amending the Constitution to include the ERA will not be easy to achieve. But the women of America deserve no less."
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