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On Senate Floor, Klobuchar Calls on Colleagues to Pass Equality Act to Protect LGBTQ Americans from Discrimination

Press Release

Date: June 18, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. President, I join my colleagues today in the middle of Pride month to celebrate the Supreme Court's landmark decision this week in Bostock v. Clayton County, protecting LGBTQ rights, protecting people from discrimination in the workplace, and urging all of our colleagues to secure and extend those protections by passing the Equality Act. Something else big happened in the Supreme Court and that was today. With the Supreme Court's decision on DACA on DREAMers, allowing them to stay in this country and asking the Administration to open up the application process for citizenship, that's relevant because it's about civil rights, but it's also relevant because the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, this conservative court has had to step in because this body has not been doing what it should.

Passing the Equality Act, passing comprehensive immigration reform. So let us remember that as we celebrate the decision on the Bostock case and also as we move towards equality. I'd like to thank Senators Merkley, Baldwin, and Booker for their leadership on this important bill and for bringing us together today. Over the last few decades, we have made progress in the fight for equality.

We stood up for what is right and we worked hard to make this a country where people can safely, proudly, and legally love who they love. It wasn't long ago that a person could be prosecuted for being gay. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the law of the land when I came to the United States Senate and states were permitted to deny LGBTQ couples the right to get married under the Defense of Marriage Act. This week, our country took an important step forward with the Supreme Court's decision, recognizing that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from firing an employee because of sex, protects LGBTQ people in the workplace.

Today we can celebrate that justice was delivered for Aimee Stephens who was fired when she informed her employer that she was transgender and for Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostock who were fired, fired, when their employers learned they were gay. But of course, this is more than about 3 people.

As Mr. Bostock said, "this fight became about so much more than me.' Their courage to stand up in the face of injustice will forever change this country for millions of LGBTQ people, their families and it makes our country a more just nation. Although Monday's decision is a landmark victory, we still have miles to go because it's not right when the Commander in Chief tells brave transgender Americans who want to serve and defend their country in our military that they are not welcome.

It's not right when this Administration is trying to take away the hard won rights of LGBTQ in healthcare and education. It's not right when you can drive across the United States on a cross country trip and the laws and protections could be very different at every rest stop you make. That's why I was proud to co-sponsor the bipartisan Equality Act the day it was introduced with my colleagues that are here today and why I am calling on our colleagues across the aisle to pass this bill. This bill, which already passed the House by a vote of 236 to 173 will go a long way to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. The Equality Act would build on the Supreme Court's decision and make nondiscrimination protections consistent and explicit.

It would amend laws like the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and federal employment laws to ensure that all Americans are entitled to equal access to housing, education and federally funded programs regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We should not wait any longer to extend these protections. Nearly two thirds of LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination in their personal lives. These problems are compounded by race and income especially for trans women of color and yet it's been over one year since this bill passed the House.

In 2000, when I was the county attorney in our largest county in Minnesota, I was invited to the White House to introduce President Bill Clinton in an event to urge the passage of hate crime legislation. We had had an African-American young man who was shot by a guy that said that he wanted to go out and kill someone and Martin Luther King Day - that happened. We had an employee that got beaten with a board in his workplace, by the foreman for simply speaking Spanish, and I had taken on a number of these crimes.

And so, I was invited by the President to urge Congress to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes, legislation that covered a wide range of hate crimes. During that event at the White House, my first time ever there, I got to meet the investigators in the Matthew Shepard case, they were these two burly cops from Wyoming and they talked about the fact that until that investigation, I think Senator Baldwin is nodding her head, and has probably met them as well. They really hadn't thought about what Matthew Shepard's life was like or the lives of other LGBTQ people.

And then as they started to investigate what happened and we all remember how he was left hanging on a fence post and the first people that saw him thought he was a scarecrow. These investigators, these police officers got to know the family in the case. They got to know his mom and they got to know his friends. In the course of their investigation as they begin to understand what life was like for Matthew Shepard, their own lives were changed. I think this is happening right now around this country after the murder of George Floyd in my state and I know it's been happening when it comes to our LGBTQ community. And that is why that day way back, we were in the White House to introduce that bill.

Nearly 10 years after that event at the White House. During my first year as a U.S. Senator, I got to be one of the deciding votes to finally pass that hate crimes bill. So I say to my colleagues who are fighting for justice who are fighting for justice in policing, who are fighting for justice for our LGBTQ community, who are fighting for justice for our immigrants, that change happens, but we can't wait 10 years for all of this change to happen.

The people of this country are demanding that it happens now. We need to come together and finally pass the Equality Act and do all these other good things that are right here, right on our desks. And we should do them immediately, not next year, not waiting, now.

Thank you. I yield the floor.