Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. Senator in history, has been busy. During the summer recess, she joined in submitting an amicus brief to support Lambda Legal's petition for rehearing in the Hively workplace discrimination case. Just as the Senate was returning to session this fall, Sen. Baldwin sat down to answer some questions from Lambda Legal.
What would you like our community to consider as we go into this election?
It is vital that our community be engaged, look at the candidates' records and experience and get out and vote. Protections for LGBT Americans are still inconsistent and uncertain in too many places. Violence, particularly against people of color and transgender people, is still alarmingly prevalent. Opponents of equality are trying to use religion as a justification to discriminate and attack the dignity and basic humanity of transgender people. Will the next president nominate federal judges who recognize that the guarantees of our Constitution apply equally to LGBT Americans? Our next president must not only advocate for policies that protect LGBT people; he or she must also use the bully pulpit to speak out against efforts to undermine our progress.
You co-sponsored the Equality Act. Why is that law needed?
In 30 states, LGBT Americans live without fully inclusive nondiscrimination laws. I believe America is ready to take the next steps forward. A growing number of Americans believe their LGBT family members, friends and neighbors deserve to be treated like everyone else. Of course, I believe that our existing laws barring sex discrimination also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and thanks to the efforts of brave plaintiffs and skilled lawyers like yours, more and more courts are recognizing that fact. But I have always believed that we must use every tool at our disposal to advocate for equality.
What can be done to address violence against our community?
The unprecedented tragedy in Orlando shined a national spotlight on the hateful violence targeted against the LGBT community. But the reality is, violence against the LGBT community happens all too often and we absolutely must do more to bring attention to the epidemic of attacks on transgender people, particularly transgender women of color. We must also strengthen the federal government's efforts to prevent hate violence, and fully investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes when they do occur.