Congresswoman Speier is a committed advocate for equal rights, and is very supportive of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community in her district and throughout the United States. Congresswoman Speier is a proud member of the LGBT Equality Caucus which boasts a total of 107 Members of Congress. She loves marching in San Francisco’s LGBT Pride Parade every June, and has cosponsored a resolution (H.Res.416) encouraging the celebration of the month of June as LGBT Pride Month.
In November 2012 and again in December 2013, 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 and New Jersey's similar law, 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. Read the Congresswoman's statement about her bill.
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 was an original cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal DOMA and so was thrilled to be among the crowds in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013, when the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and denied an appeal by backers of California’s Proposition 8, clearing the way for marriages to resume in California. She is thankful that, as of January 2014, same-sex couples can marry in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and their marriages are now federally recognized. Click to read her statements about the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions.
Although existing legislation now extends federal marriage benefits to same-sex spouses in states with marriage equality, we need to extend such benefits for same-sex and opposite-sex couples in domestic partnerships in those states, and same-sex couples in states without any recognition of same-sex unions. The fight is not at all over.
She has 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. Seh has co-sponsored:
• the Social Security Equality Act, which 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.
• 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.
• H.Res.407, in support of National Adoption Month and National Adoption Day, which celebrates the contributions of LGBT adoptive parents and recognizes the current barriers for loving parents who want to start a family.
Youth and Education
LGBT Americans deserve protection from discrimination at every stage in their lives. A school environment made unsafe by daily bullying and harassment is a major contributor to the drop-out problem and adolescent suicide rates. 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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 on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
• H.Res.398, expressing support for designation of October 2013 as "National Anti-Bullying Month".
• 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 or cyberbullying by students, faculty, and staff based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity
• the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, which would prohibit federal funding for programs that promote gender stereotypes or are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of sexually active or LGBT youth.
She has signed onto a congressional letter expressing strong support for protections for transgender youth through California’s AB1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, which allows transgender students to fully express their gender identity at school by allowing them to use restroom facilities and try out for sports teams based on the gender with which they identify. This is a crucial step in making our schools more safe and welcoming for all students, and Speier stands in vigorous opposition to the efforts to repeal this law.
LGBT couples deserve equal immigration rights and Congresswoman Speier is determined to see them included in comprehensive immigration reform. For the past three Congresses, Congresswoman Speier has cosponsored the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which, before DOMA was struck down, aimed to allow LGBT American citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States.
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. did 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 (Jay and Shirley pictured in first photo above).
She has also signed onto a Congressional letter urging the International Olympic Committtee to uphold the ideals of non-discriminaton and committ to the protection of human rights during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Employment and Health
43 percent of LGBT people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination. More than 70% of the American people support federal legislation to prohibit employers from making decisions about hiring, firing, promoting, or compensating an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and 8 out of 10 voters already think it exists. The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) reflects policies already in place at hundreds of companies, in 21 states and in the District of Columbia. On November 7, 2013, ENDA passed the Senate 64-32, and it is now up to the House to protect LGBT Americans in states without such protection. No one should go to work every day afraid of being fired, and so Congresswoman Speier is a staunch cosponsor. She also supports:
• the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, which extends employment and retirement benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. Making the demise of DOMA a reality for LGBT federal employees, the bill would enable them to live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage equality. 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.
• the LGBT Juror Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit attorneys from seeking to strike potential federal jurors based on their 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.
• the Healthy Families Act, which newly includes long-term paid leave for LGBT Americans to care for their terminally ill domestic partners and children.
• the Domestic Violence Leave Act in the 112th Congress, which 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. She will sign on to it when it is reintroduced in the 113th.
She has signed onto a Congressional letter requesting information from the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the agency’s efforts toward revising the outdated policy that bars for life men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood, which can no longer be justified in light of scientific research on HIV/AIDS and updated blood screening technology.
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 and the end of DOMA in March 2013 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.