The June 26th Obergefell v. Hodges decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) was a victory for justice and equality. Ensuring marriage equality for all Americans regardless of who they love strengthens families, communities, and our nation as a whole. Despite the positive move forward with the Supreme Court’s ruling, significant work remains to ensure equal rights to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. LGBT people are still denied work, bullied in our schools, and homelessness and poverty rates are still unacceptably high among LGBT people.
I am a proud cosponsor of the Equality Act, which will provide clear and consistent federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. Even after the marriage equality victory, a couple who gets married remains at risk of being discriminated against at their place of work due to some states’ lack of anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. This bill establishes explicit and permanent protections for LGBT individuals in matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service.
Along with cosponsoring the Equality Act, I recently signed two letters that I hope will further advance equality for the LGBT community.
The first letter was directed to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) addressing the FDA’s recent Draft Guidance regarding blood donation restrictions for men who have sex with men (MSM). Currently, there is a lifetime deferral from donating blood for MSM, and the FDA’s recent change would implement a one-year deferral period based solely on the sex of a man’s partner and not their risk. This new policy continues to uniformly and unfairly ban many men from donating blood based solely on the fact that they are gay or bisexual, and not on their individual risk, perpetuating outdated stereotypes of the gay and bisexual community. The letter asks the FDA to make meaningful changes to address the inadequacies and discrimination in the current system.
I also signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to express my concerns about recent reports that American LGBT Foreign Service Officers are sometimes denied an equal opportunity to represent the United States abroad because foreign governments refuse to recognize their same sex marriages. The letter called upon the State Department to send a forceful message that all American families must be treated equally.
With strides forward such as the SCOTUS ruling, we are closer to ensuring equality and justice for the LGBT community. No one should be denied equal rights because of who they love, and I will continue to fight for policies that ensure LGBT equality.