HUMAN RIGHTS

Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Interrogations (2010)

When the Japanese army subjected American prisoners of war to waterboarding it was a crime and those responsible were severely punished.  After World War II, several Japanese soldiers were convicted for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. 

And yet the Bush Administration complete with Attorney Generals and designees weren’t sure if waterboarding is a crime.

When President Obama took office last year, one of the first Executive Orders he issued extended the Army Field Manual’s guidelines on interrogation tactics. Those guidelines prohibit interrogators in all federal agencies from using brutal interrogations in any circumstance.

This year I will propose legislation that will expand upon the President's Executive order to clearly define what constitutes a cruel, inhuman, or degrading interrogation so that it is unmistakable what kinds of techniques are unacceptable. It also creates criminal penalties for those who use those kinds of interrogations

Brutal interrogations condoned by your government hurt our reputation abroad. The world was horrified when they saw what American soldiers were doing at Abu Ghraib. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, “people are now starting to question whether we're following our own high standards."

Brutality like this hurts our credibility and undercuts our reputation in the global community.

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Military Readiness Enhancement Act  (2009)

Every day, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender soldiers honor our country with their distinguished service, despite a governmental policy that violates their dignity and compromises their safety.

Every American deserves to be treated with respect and equal treatment under the law. That is why I am an original co-sponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009, which would repeal this unjust and outdated policy.

Since its adoption in the early 1990s by the Clinton Administration, the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy has failed to offer gay and lesbian soldiers the meaningful protections it sought to extend.  The Obama Administration has taken an important step by calling for an end to the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.  

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The Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act (2008)

Every American deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and equal treatment under the law, but that is not happening in the workplace today, because of a glaring inequity that treats a married couple differently than domestic partners when it comes to an employer’s contribution for a health care premium.

That’s why I introduced The tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act.  The legislation removes the tax inequity that denies gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and domestic partnership relationships the same health care benefit in the workplace that other Americans receive with employer-provided health insurance.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act  (2007)

America is a great nation but it is a work in progress - we still have work to do when it comes to protecting the rights of every American.  No one understands that better than Representative Barney Frank, my friend and colleague from Massachusetts. With Barney’s leadership, the House passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  

ENDA is a clear statement that we will protect and defend the rights of Americans in the work place. There is much more to be done, but ENDA is an historic milestone and we should be proud of what we have achieved so far.

As far as I am concerned, the issue comes down to one simple, declarative sentence: Your sexual orientation and lifestyle is your business, not your employer’s business.  A chance at the American Dream should apply to every American.  Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual people hope, dream, love and care as we all do.  They deserve nothing less than a full measure of justice and equality from their country.  So do transgender Americans and we have more work to do to extend ENDA protections to them.

While we have made progress with ENDA neither Rep. Barney Frank, nor I, nor my constituents will rest until we can declare with conviction that all Americans are created equal.

The Prison at Guantanamo Bay

Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo, and "ghost detainees" betray everything America stands for and every principle our troops fight for.

America stands for many good things, but one thing that America must not stand for is the continued operation of a prison at Guantanamo Bay.  Every minute that Guantanamo remains open, America diminishes its moral authority in the world and lowers its voice to a whisper in defense of human rights.

We cannot condemn around the world what we in fact condone at home by keeping Guantanamo Bay open.

Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

So long as Guantanamo prison remains open, injustice will remain a threat to everything that America is and stands for.

Let’s recognize that Guantanamo is a black mark on America’s resolve to defend human rights and civil liberties wherever they may be threatened.  America loses faith and face every day that Guantanamo remains open.

I am an advocate of closing Guantanamo prison now!

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