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Grading the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus in the 112th Congress

According to their website (http://lgbt.tammybaldwin.house.gov/): The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus was established in the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2008 by Co-Chairs Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Barney Frank (D-MA), along with Members of Congress who are strongly committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world.”

The Caucus is now co-chaired by four openly gay members of Congress:  Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, Jared Polis (D-CO), and David Cicilline (D-RI).  In addition to the Co-Chairs, the membership is comprised of 19 Vice-Chairs and 74 Members, which totals to 97 members.

bw_teacher_pupil_blackboard-300x204It is commonly understood amongst LGBT advocacy organizations and activists, that with the recent loss of Democrats in the House of Representatives during the 2012 election, the 112th Congress might be a challenging field to secure passage of any LGBT legislation. Given the current political environment, one would expect that the Equality Caucus formed with the mission to achieve equal rights for LGBT people would immediately and unequivocally support ALL pieces of LGBT friendly legislation introduced in this Congress.

However that isn’t what is happening.  Act on Principles is giving the following grades to the Equality Caucus on their support of LGBT friendly legislation introduced in the House of Representatives. Currently, there are four pieces of legislation in the House that impact LGBT equality, as of today, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has not been formally introduced by Equality Caucus Co-Chair Barney Frank.

HR 116: Respect for Marriage Act (introduced 3/16/2011 by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY))

B-

HR 998: Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011(introduced 3/10/2011 by Jared Polis (D-WI))

B

HR 1028: Equal Access to COBRA Act of 2011 (introduced 3/10/2011 by Anthony Weiner (D-NY))

F

HR 1048: Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2011 (introduced 3/11/2011by Rush Holt (D-NJ))

F-

Before going into too much details on each of the bills, the four members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus that are supporting ALL FOUR pieces of LGBT legislation introduced should be commended.  These Members of Congress received a 100% score on their co-sponsorship efforts, unfortunately they account for only 4% of the entire Equality Caucus (4 out of 97 members):

  • Michael Honda (D-CA) – Caucus Vice-Chair
  • Rush Holt (D-NJ) -Caucus Member
  • Frank Pallone (D-NJ) – Caucus Member
  • Steven Rothman (D-NJ) – Caucus Member

Conversely, the nine members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus that are supporting zero pieces of legislation should be also noted. These Members of Congress receive a 0% score on their co-sponsorship efforts.  (We do not want to penalize the Equality Caucus or Equality Caucus Member Gabrielle Giffords due to her circumstances and medical condition that keeps her from participating in her Congressional activities. Her co-sponsorships will not be counted in the tabulations).   Those with no co-sponsorships of any pro-LGBT legislation account for 8% of the Equality Caucus (8 out 96).

  • Robert Andrews (D-NJ) – Caucus Vice-Chair
  • Xavier Becerra (D-CA) – Caucus Vice-Chair
  • Hansen Clarke (D-MI) – Caucus Member
  • Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) – Caucus Member
  • Jane Harman (D-CA) – Caucus Member
  • Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) – Caucus Member
  • Frederica Wilson (D-FL) – Caucus Member
  • Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP) *Non-voting Caucus Member from the Northern Mariana Islands

With a grade of a B-, only 82%  (79 of 96 members) of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is supporting the Respect for Marriage Act. Those Equality Caucus members not co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act include the eight 0% members above and the following nine members:

  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – Caucus Vice-Chair
  • Timothy Bishop (D-NY) – Caucus Member
  • Andre Carson (D-IN) – Caucus Member
  • Peter DeFazio (D-OR) – Caucus Member
  • Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) – Caucus Member
  • Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) – Caucus Member
  • Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) – Caucus Member
  • Laura Richardson (D-CA) – Caucus Member
  • Betty Sutton (D-OH) – Caucus Member

With a grade of a B, 85% (82 of 96 members) of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is supporting the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Those Equality Caucus members not co-sponsoring the Student Non-Discrimination Act include the eight 0% members above and the following six members:

  • George Miller (D-CA– Caucus Member
  • Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) – Caucus Member
  • Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) – Caucus Member
  • John Conyers (D-MI) – Caucus Member
  • Marcia Fudge (D-OH) – Caucus Member
  • Martin Heinrich (D-NM) – Caucus Member

With a grade of an F, 44% (42 of 96 members) of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is supporting the Equal Access to COBRA Act. Rather than list all those Equality Caucus members not cosponsoring the Equal Access to COBRA Act let’s look at some other details.  All of the Equality Caucus Co-Chairs (Baldwin, Cicilline, Frank, and Polis) are cosponsors of the bill.  However, only 36% (7 of 19) of the Vice-Chairs of the Caucus are cosponsors of the bill.

With a grade of F-, 7% (7 of 96 members) of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is supporting the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act. The bill sponsored by Democrat Rush Holt from New Jersey is the least supported piece of legislation in the Equality Caucus with only 7 co-sponsors. None of the Equality Caucus Co-Chairs (Baldwin, Cicilline, Frank or Polis) are cosponsors and only 11% (2 of 19) of the Vice-Chairs of the Caucus are cosponsors of the bill.

In order to achieve full federal equality, we need an important institution such as the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus to actually be efficient and turnkey in our efforts to demonstrate and increase the support for all pieces of LGBT friendly legislation. I am hopeful that the Equality Caucus leadership either: 1. Encourages all of its members to support and cosponsor ALL LGBT-friendly legislation introduced by its membership and other allies in Congress or 2. Explains to the larger LGBT community why the Equality Caucus isn’t supporting specific pieces of legislation.

Act On Principles (www.actonprinciples.org) will continue publicly whip all LGBT supportive legislation in the 112th Congress, continue to evaluate the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus on their support of our equality, and work with organizations to ensure we achieve full federal equality.


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