Congresswoman Speier is a committed advocate for equal rights, and is very supportive of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.
June 26, 2013 marked a historic day for same sex marriage. The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and denied an appeal by Prop 8 backers, clearing the way for marriages to resume in California.
LGBT Equality Caucus
Congresswoman Speier is a proud member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, which boasts a total of 107 Members of Congress who “are strongly committed to working towards the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and well being for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
In November 2012, Congresswoman Speier introduced the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) Act to protect young people from the psychological abuse of so-called LGBT conversion practices, which have been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and other mental health groups for nearly 40 years. Being LGBT is not a disease that can be cured or a mental health issue that can be treated. Her bill encourages each state to take steps to protect minors from efforts that promote or promise to change sexual orientation or gender identity or expression based these discredited premises.
Inspired by California’s recently enacted SB 1172, which prohibits state-licensed mental health professionals from engaging minors in these harmful therapies, the SHOK Act is the first federal action to address this problem and Speier plans to reintroduce it to the 113th Congress soon.
Marriage Equality and Family
Congresswoman Speier couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the majority of Americans who support marriage equality for our lesbian and gay citizens. She is thankful that, as of spring 2013, same-sex couples can marry in 12 states and the District of Columbia, and is waiting in suspense for the Supreme Court’s June decision on the challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, which hurt LGBT couples and families.
If, sadly, the Court does not rule on the side of history and of fairness, she is already a cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal DOMA and restore the rights of all lawfully married couples—including same-sex couples—to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law. She will also reintroduce the Equal Access to COBRA Act to extend access to COBRA coverage for domestic partners and their children if they are covered by an employer’s health plan.
Speier has cosponsored the Healthy Families Act, which newly includes long-term paid leave for LGBT Americans to care for their terminally ill domestic partners and children. She is also a cosponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prohibit any entity that receives federal child welfare funds from using sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status to discriminate against prospective adoptive or foster parents and children in need of families.
She cosponsored the Social Security Equality Act in the 112th Congress and will sign on to it when it is reintroduced in the 113th. It would amend Title II of the Social Security Act to authorize permanent same-sex partnerships to be treated as marriage for purposes of determining entitlement to OASDI benefits.
Youth and Education
LGBT Americans deserve protection from discrimination at every stage in their lives. Therefore, Congresswoman Speier is a cosponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), modeled after Title IX, which prohibits any school program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
She has cosponsored the No Name-Calling Week Resolution to commemorate this annual week of educational activities nationwide aimed at ending name-calling, bullying, and harassment of all kinds. She has also cosponsored the National Day of Silence Resolution, which commemorates the annual day on which students take a vow of silence to bring attention to the anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment faced by individuals in schools—the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all.
A school environment made unsafe by daily bullying and harassment is a major contributor to the drop-out problem and adolescent suicide rates. The Safe Schools Improvement Act, of which she is a cosponsor, would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education 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.
Congresswoman Speier has also cosponsored the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which requires colleges and universities receiving federal student aid funding to enact a policy that prohibits harassment of enrolled students by other students, faculty, and staff based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Cyberbullying is explicitly prohibited.
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, of which she is a cosponsor, awards grants to comprehensive, evidence-based sex education programs that emphasize reducing HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancy. It would prohibit federal funding for programs that promote gender stereotypes or are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of sexually active or LGBT youth.
LGBT couples deserve equal immigration rights. For the past three Congresses, Congresswoman Speier has cosponsored the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would allow LGBT American citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently enjoyed only by married heterosexual couples.
UAFA is the Title II of the Reuniting Families Act, which helps those families currently waiting abroad in the visa backlog to enter the U.S. and reunite with family members. Because the U.S. does not legally recognize LGBT couples and their children as families, many families have been torn apart. She helped her constituent Shirley Tan avoid this outcome in 2009 by stopping her deportation so Shirley could remain with her partner Jay and two children.
Congresswoman Speier is a cosponsor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which would finally prohibit employers from making decisions about hiring, firing, promoting, or compensating an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Research has shown that 43 percent of LGBT people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination. ENDA reflects non-discrimination policies already in place at hundreds of companies, in 21 states and in the District of Columbia. She also joined 109 Members of Congress in signing a letter encouraging President Obama to issue an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating in the workplace based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Congresswoman Speier has also cosponsored the LGBT Juror Non-Discrimination Act. Since neither the Supreme Court nor federal law has prohibited discrimination in jury service based on sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBT citizens can be—and have been—denied the ability to serve on juries, having negative impacts on victims or defendants who are LGBT. This bill would prohibit attorneys from seeking to strike potential federal jurors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Domestic Violence Leave Act would entitle an employee and their same-sex spouse or domestic partner up to 12 work-weeks of annual leave to care for a family member who is addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act would extend employment and retirement benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. Congresswoman Speier cosponsored these bills in the 112th Congress, and will sign on to them when they are reintroduced in the 113th.
As Congresswoman Speier serves on the House Armed Services Committee, she is committed to pursuing equality for all members in the Armed Forces. She was proud to vote for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. This baseless policy hurt our troops and damaged our national defense for too long. Many in uniform endured tremendous challenges and setbacks—emotional, financial, and professional—because they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation. And the military lost thousands of highly skilled men and women who were dedicated to serving their country. It was no surprise to hear from studies and military leaders that ending this policy had no overall negative impact—no less is expected from our servicemen and servicewomen. Our LGBT members can now live the military values of honesty, honor and integrity by integrating their personal and professional lives as they serve our country.
The official end of DADT in 2011 did not mean the end of unequal treatment of same-sex spouses of service members, who are still denied a wide range of services and benefits such as health insurance, family leave, housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, pre-deployment counseling, and access to base commissaries. Congresswoman Speier joined 36 fellow Members of Congress in signing a letter to Defense Secretary Panetta urging him to take executive actions, and has cosponsored the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, which would provide the same family benefits to lawfully married lesbian and gay service members and veterans as for opposite-sex spouses. She has also signed a letter with 39 other Members to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki commending the VA for extending national cemetery burial benefits to same-sex couples.
Congresswoman Speier cosponsored the Service Member Anti-Hazing Act in the 112th Congress and will sign on to it when it is reintroduced in the 113th. This legislation would require the military to identify hazing incidents by gender and sexual orientation and develop an annual diversity training program to prevent such hazing.