We're taking Donald Trump to court over his transgender military ban.Fund our fight!

Making "Next" a Reality: On Progress with Senator Tammy Baldwin

Browse By

Blog Search

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.
November 3, 2016
Comments
Senator Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin)

The following is from the Fall issue of Lambda Legal's Impact magazine. Become a Lambda Legal member to become a subscriber!

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.

"I believe that when you are not in the room, the conversation is about you. But when you are in the room, the conversation is with you. That changes everything. When we participate in public life, we can effect change well beyond winning an election or passing a law."
—  U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin

In Wisconsin, state lawmakers have tried to block transgender students from using school bathrooms that match their gender identity. Why is this issue important?

The politicians advancing this discrimination have found themselves on the wrong side of history. I believe that every student deserves the freedom and opportunity to dream the same dreams, get a great education and have the same shot at success. That is why we need to provide a supportive environment for students free of discrimination.

Wisconsin's judicial nomination to the 7th Circuit is the longest-standing federal circuit court vacancy in the country. What are your concerns about continued efforts to obstruct that process?

The failure of [Senior Wisconsin] Senator [Ron] Johnson to do his job is really disappointing, and the obstruction of Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell is unacceptable. The 7th Circuit Court has taken up a number of Wisconsin issues without a Wisconsin seat on the court, including women's heath, labor rights, campaign finance, marriage equality and most recently voting rights. These are important issues and the people of Wisconsin deserve better than an empty seat.

Why is it important for more LGBT people to run for office?

I believe that when you are not in the room, the conversation is about you. But when you are in the room, the conversation is with you. That changes everything. When we participate in public life, we can effect change well beyond winning an election or passing a law. Progress isn't just when the first openly lesbian American is elected to the Senate or the first woman is elected president of the United States. It's when the "nexts" become a reality. While the "firsts" represent history, the "nexts" represent real progress. So if someone asks you to step up and participate, do it. And if nobody asks you, definitely do it.