Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, we must all remain loyal to America’s founding creeds that “all men [and women] are created equal”, and all must be treated equally under the law. As such, we must makes sure that our nation’s laws and policies are regularly being updated to keep pace with the advancement of society- and we must commit adequate resources to ensure that these statutory protections are constantly enforced.
Our low-level of voter turnout is also shameful for the world’s oldest democracy, yet we have politicians who are trying to drive turnout even lower through politically-motivated dirty tricks like gerrymandering and purging of voter rolls.
Women's and LGBT Rights
It is no secret that many employers in this country are not treating all their employees equally. We know that women are often paid less than men for the exact same work, and often face casual discrimination, sexism, and unwanted advances.
Families as a whole benefit from the economic empowerment of women. This issue does, however, play into the larger economic context of the erosion of employee rights as unions and public bargaining have declined. The forced silence of victims of harassment and impunity for abusers are connected to the extreme inequality of some workforce conditions. Making the power between employers and employees more equal is a fight everyone has a stake in, because everyone suffers when the playing field is tilted too severely in favor of the powerful.
We must dedicate far more resources to preventing these events before they happen, and giving women the tools they need to speak freely and get justice. In Congress, I’ll work to significantly increase federal funding for public legal resources, to ensure that women of all incomes have the ability to bring their abusers to a court of law. Women who face abuse and discrimination should never have to settle for anything less than full legal justice.
I also firmly believe that the US Constitution contains an implied right to privacy, which means that government cannot intrude into a woman’s personal life, especially decisions around healthcare. And sadly, the United States remains one of the few developed counties that does not guarantee paid maternity leave for all mothers. I support new legislation to require employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, at least 15 days of paid vacation, and at least 7 days of paid sick leave. I also believe the US government should provide tax and other incentives to ease the financial cost to employers.
Ensuring affordability of contraception is a crucial health issue that reduces the rate of teen pregnancy and abortion. Unfortunately, due to recent Supreme Court and administration rulings, employers can still make decisions for their employees about whether their health plans cover contraception. This is an invasion of women’s privacy and attempt to control women’s life choices.
Pregnant women without appropriate health insurance can be asked to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a hospital for the cost of delivery, and much more if a C-section is required or the baby is born prematurely. Lack of healthcare is also a major reason that childbirth is far more dangerous and more frequently fatal in America than in any other developed country, and sadly the situation has been getting worse, particularly in rural areas in which women sometimes have to travel very long distances in order to receive medical care for their pregnancy. Consolidation of rural hospitals due to profit pressure makes all of this worse.
Equality for the LGBT Community
While the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government and all states must recognize same-sex marriages, there is still no federal law granting protections to the LGBT community. While the LGBT community has made huge strides in the past decade, they still face regular abuse and discrimination in the workplace and in public.
The rights to privacy and equality are both key elements of our Constitution and bill of rights, and I believe the government should not intervene in the private lives of its citizens, except to ensure equal treatment under the law.
Accordingly, we are in serious need of a new federal law that explicitly bans discrimination based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation in hiring/employment, public accommodations, interstate commerce, banking, career advancement, compensation, and housing, among others.
During parts of the 20th century, the US led the world in promoting equal and human rights, both domestically and internationally. That legacy must continue into the 21st century as well.
Voting and Elections
Protecting Access to the Ballotbox
In the shameful days of open segregation, literacy laws and poll taxes were used to suppress minority voting. Today, actions like racial gerrymandering of Congressional districts, restriction of same-day registration and early voting, and aggressive purging of voter rolls are having similar effects especially on the minority voter turnout.
11% of eligible voters currently don’t have a photo ID- and most these voters are black and Latino. In 2012, African-Americans waited twice as long to vote, and voters in some minority precincts waited several hours to cast a ballot. Meanwhile, 13% of African-American men have lost the right to vote due to felony convictions.
To make matters worse, in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that states no longer need to gain federal pre-clearance before implementing discriminatory voting laws. This horrible ruling struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act- a stunningly ignorant decision which has left a permanent stain on the Supreme Court’s reputation.
The state of ballot access and poor turnout is completely embarrassing, and is a deep insult to our Constitutional democracy and to those who have fought and died defending it.
In Congress, I’ll support measures to:
- Reaffirm and restore the “pre-clearance” formula under the Voting Rights Act, which protects voters in areas with historic discrimination and electoral dysfunction
- Make Election day a federal holiday so every citizen can easily get a chance to vote
- Federally require early voting options for voters who work, study, or need the flexibility to vote on evenings or weekends
- Create incentives for all the 50 states to move towards nonpartisan apportionment of congressional districts
- Automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18, or move to a new state. Cities, counties, and motor vehicle departments already have the information to do this. The burden of registering voters should be on the state, not the individual voter
- Expand federal funding for polling places and streamline requirements for voting machines to prevent errors and election-day shenanigans