Speier is a strong supporter of marriage equality. Same-sex couples can marry in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia. California recognizes (the over 18,000) same-sex marriages performed before the passage of Proposition 8. In February 2011, President Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a move Speier strongly supported. She believes we need to go even further by passing the Respect for Marriage Act which would repeal this discriminatory law. She believes it is time to adopt marriage equality for all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Equal Access to COBRA
Congresswoman Speier introduced H.R. 2310, the Equal Access to COBRA Act of 2011, legislation which would ensure LGBT couples and families have the same access to Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. The bill would apply to companies that already offer health coverage to domestic partners and their children. COBRA gives workers the right to access their employer-provided health care benefits for up to 36 months after they lose their job. Currently, COBRA mandates only employees, their spouses, and dependent children can continue health coverage. This bill would change federal law to allow equal access to COBRA coverage for all individuals who are covered by an employer’s health plan, including domestic partners and their children. Speier believes the recession didn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and neither should our safety net policy. This legislation would ensure that eligible LGBT employees and their families have the same access to health care benefits as every other American.
Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Speier was proud to vote to repeal the destructive and discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited patriotic LGBT Americans from serving their country in uniform. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hurt our troops and damaged our national defense for too long. Repealing the flawed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy reflects the principles that we as a nation share: freedom, equality, and fairness. Many in the military have endured a tremendous set of challenges and setbacks - emotional, financial, and professional - because they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was officially repealed on September 20, 2011.
Congresswoman Speier believes in the importance of giving LGBT couples equal immigration rights. Speier is a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation which would allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently enjoyed only by married heterosexual couples under immigration law. Because the U.S. does not legally recognize LGBT couples and their children as families, many families have been torn apart. Speier helped her constituent Shirley Tan avoid this outcome in 2009 by stopping her deportation so she could remain with her partner and two children.
Speier is a cosponsor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit public and private sector employers from making decisions about hiring, firing, promoting, or compensating an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA reflects non-discrimination policies already in place at hundreds of companies, including 434 (87%) of the Fortune 500 that extend protections based on sexual orientation and 207 (46%) that extend protections based on gender identity. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from employment discrimination and 12 states and the District of Columbia have laws that also protect transgender people.
Speier is a cosponsor of the Student Nondiscrimination Act (SNDA) which would prohibits any school program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating against any public school student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. She is also a cosponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) which would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (part of the No Child Left Behind Act) to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Act would also require that states report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education.