DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement Calling on Republican Governors to Reject Anti-Equality Legislation

Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer is considering whether to sign a bill into law that makes it legal for businesses to refuse service to patrons based on their sexual orientation. In response, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:

Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz
Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz

“The bill currently being considered by Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer is deeply offensive and an affront to the fundamental American value of equality. We should be working toward increased equality for all, not turning back the clock to enable discrimination.

“This is not an isolated incident. Republicans in Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee have drafted similar bills. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are also pushing legislation that would allow businesses to deny services to same-sex couples.

“This is unacceptable. GOP governors have presented themselves as the leaders of their party, so as they convene today in Washington for a meeting, they should show true leadership by denouncing these bills and kicking them back into the dustbin of history where they belong.”

Gotta Vote!

What are you going to tell them? You were just too busy? You didn’t think it mattered? Is that what your going to tell your friends who can’t get married?

The one’s who couldn’t serve openly in the military? Are you going to tell them they can’t make decisions on their own bodies anymore because you didn’t think your vote counted? Why not have a different conversation about how you voted for them?

Go to GottaRegister.com—Register and vote.

Watch and share today’s video.

Keeping His Word: Equality for LGBT Americans

“When I am President of the United States, gays and lesbians will have somebody who will fight for equal rights for them; somebody who opposes ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’; somebody who has fought to make sure that gays and lesbians aren’t discriminated against on the job or hospital visitation, because they are our brothers and they are our sisters.” — Barack Obama, November 16th, 2007

Four years ago Barack Obama promised to stand with the LGBT community. As President he repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, appointed more LGBT people to his executive branch than all of his predecessors combined, expanded hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners, directed the Justice Department not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, and affirmed his personal support for marriage equality.

Watch and share today’s video on how President Obama has followed through on his promise to the LGBT community.

Obama Pride

Jane Lynch narrates a new video—featuring a candid interview with President Obama—about the progress LGBT Americans have made over the last three and a half years. President Obama speaks about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, why he supports marriage equality, and what’s at stake for the LGBT community in this election.

Hear what the President has to say about what’s at stake for this November—then sign up to be part of Obama Pride.

Ensuring that LGBT Victims of Domestic Violence Can Access Critically Needed Services and Protections

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, but failed to include critical provisions that would ensure that all victims of domestic violence can access vital services and protections.  Victims are victims, and, if you have been battered, stalked or otherwise threatened with violence, you should not be turned away by a shelter or denied the assistance you need merely because the aggressor is the same sex as you or because you are transgender.  Yet, the legislation approved by the House Judiciary Committee and being considered this week on the House floor would allow just that.

The guiding principle behind VAWA and each of its subsequent reauthorizations has been an unyielding commitment to the notion that no sexual assault or domestic violence victim should be beaten, hurt or killed because they could not access the support, assistance and protection that they need.  In enacting VAWA in 1994, Congress acknowledged that the criminal justice system chronically failed to respond to the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, too often blaming victims and refusing to hold offenders accountable as violent criminals.  In reauthorizing VAWA in 2000, Congress included new VAWA programs and provisions to help particularly vulnerable populations, including younger victims, immigrant victims, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.  In the 2005 reauthorization, Congress once again strengthened the Act to improve the health care response to domestic violence, to include a new focus on prevention, and to expand protections for children exposed to violence.

This year, the VAWA reauthorization bill passed by the Senate in April would remove barriers faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims, whose needs often are overlooked by law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and victim service providers. LGBT victims experience domestic violence at roughly the same rate as the general population.  Nonetheless, recent surveys show that LGBT victims frequently are turned away when attempting to access services. For example, according to a 2010 survey by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 45% of LGBT victims were denied services when they sought help from a domestic violence shelter, and nearly 55% were denied protection orders.

Without LGBT-specific training, criminal justice personnel often underestimate the physical danger involved in same-sex relationships or fail to identify a primary aggressor and instead arrest both victim and perpetrator.  Even well-intentioned service providers may generate outreach materials that do not accurately or fully reflect the experience of LGBT victims, and thus inadvertently discourage individuals who have suffered abuse from seeking needed care.  In all these cases, bias or a lack of understanding contributes to an environment where the needs of LGBT victims are underserved.

The Senate bill would improve VAWA further, authorizing States and service providers to ensure that VAWA protections extend to all victims – including LGBT victims – of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The Senate bill includes three provisions that would help LGBT victims access VAWA-funded services.

First, the Senate bill would add a LGBT-focused purpose area to the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant program, the largest VAWA program and the one that supports law enforcement, prosecution, court and victim service activities in every State.  This new purpose area would authorize States, at their discretion, to fund projects that focus specifically on improving responses to male and female victims of domestic and sexual violence whose ability to access traditional services is affected by their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Second, the Senate bill would amend the Act’s definition of “underserved population” to recognize that LGBT victims face barriers to service.  Not only does this improvement send an important message to those who administer and receive VAWA funding, but it will ensure that organizations serving this community can obtain funding from a new grant program that focuses on underserved populations.

Third, the Senate bill would protect LGBT victims from discrimination by prohibiting VAWA grantees from denying LGBT victims access to programs on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Plainly put, this provision would ensure that all victims of domestic violence are able to access life-saving services.  In contrast, the VAWA reauthorization bill reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, which is being advanced by House Republican leadership, excludes these critical protections for LGBT victims.

Opponents claim that the Senate bill’s LGBT provisions are a solution looking for a problem.  That is just not true.  Domestic and sexual violence against LGBT individuals is an unfortunate reality, as is violence against non-LGBT individuals – and we shouldn’t allow any victim of such abuse to go unprotected.

A Historic Moment

“It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” – President Barack Obama, May 9, 2012

Today, in an interview with ABC News, President Obama said, “I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

With that one statement, he made it clear that he believes that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships from getting married.

Obviously, the President has spent time giving this issue serious consideration, and his view has been shaped by conversations with his family, his friends, neighbors, and the people who work with him at the White House.

In the interview, he said that he had discussed the issue around the dinner table with his wife and daughters. He said he’d heard from service members who, even after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, felt constrained because they aren’t allowed to get married.

And in the end, the President said, he believes it’s important to “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

Later tonight, ABC will air excerpts of the interview on “World News With Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline.”

Tomorrow, the entire interview will run on Good Morning America.