The Democratic National Convention opens tonight with a lineup of pro-equality speakers including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and former NBA player Jason Collins, who made history by coming out while still an active professional basketball player.
First Lady Michelle Obama, who shares Hillary Clinton’s commitment to LGBTQ equality, is the featured speaker tonight. She has long been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ people, most recently urging Jackson State University graduates in Mississippi to stand against discrimination - including their state’s new anti-LGBTQ law, HB1523. “We've got to stand side by side with all our neighbors — straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu immigrant, Native American — because the march for civil rights isn't just about African Americans, it's about all Americans,” she said.
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, a bill that would finally offer explicit, clear, and permanent non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people at the federal level, and has been a reliable and steadfast ally to the LGBTQ community throughout his career. He is a cosponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would prohibit discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. He is also a cosponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), which would require schools to adopt codes of conduct against bullying and harassment.
Senator Warren (D-MA) has been a long-time supporter of marriage equality, endorsing it in 2011. Following the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, Warren penned an op-ed highlighting how the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage rights to same-sex couples. In a 2015 letter, Warren led a group of 38 Senators in calling out the Social Security Administration for their treatment of married same-sex couples.
Warren has also been a leader on non-discrimination. In addition to cosponsoring the Equality Act, Warren supports legislation in Massachusetts that would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public spaces. The bill was signed into law on July 8. She’s also been an ardent opponent of the FDA’s discriminatory blood ban.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has been a strong pro-equality force since arriving in the U.S. Senate in 2013. Like Sanders and Warren, he is an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, and also helped introduce the first Senate bill to prohibit the dangerous and fraudulent practice of “conversion therapy.”
And like Sanders and Warren, Booker is also a cosponsor of SNDA and SSIA. Booker spoke at HRC’s 2016 Spring Equality Convention. You can watch his remarks here.
Jason Collins, who made history as the first openly gay active professional basketball player is also addressing the convention. By coming out and living openly, Collins courageously showed the world that one's sexual orientation is no longer an impediment to achieving one's goals, even at the highest levels of professional sports. Since coming out, he has been named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
The combination of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine make for the most pro-equality ticket in history. Hillary Clinton has made LGBTQ equality a pillar of her campaign, including calling it her “highest priority” to pass and sign into law the Equality Act. In addition, she supports the military’s decision ending the ban on open transgender military service, is fighting to outlaw dangerous and debunked “conversion therapy” for minors and is calling for an end to the epidemic of transgender violence. Read more on Clinton’s strong LGBTQ platform and record here.
Running mate Tim Kaine also has a strong LGBTQ record. In addition to supporting marriage equality, Kaine is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act. One of Kaine’s first actions as Virginia Governor in 2006 was to sign an executive order adding sexual orientation protections to the non-discrimination policy for state workers. Kaine also recently signed onto an amicus brief in the 2nd Circuit case, Christiansen v Omnicom Group Inc., arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He has voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA).
Clinton-Kaine stand in stark contrast with the Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Among his anti-equality positions, Trump has vowed to rescind marriage equality and pledged to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices who would overturn last year’s historic Obergefell marriage equality ruling. He has pledged to sign the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which could allow individuals, many businesses, and nonprofit organizations to circumvent critical federal protections and blatantly discriminate against LGBTQ families.
Pence, in a now notorious interview with ABC last year, refused to answer eight separate times when asked whether businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Pence became a national disgrace in 2015 for his “license to discriminate” bill -- which threatened to allow businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people -- and for subsequently defending the bill after an outcry from the business community and a majority of Hoosier voters.
Read more on how Trump and Pence would put LGBTQ equality at risk here on HRC’s new “Dump Trump” site.
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