Since his first term in Congress, Jim has been an unfailing advocate of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) Americans. In the past 50 years, the LGBT community has made great strides toward its ultimate goal of equality, but much remains to be done. Today, the community still faces discrimination in the workplace, unequal tax treatment, harassment and lack of federal marriage recognition. Jim firmly believes that civil marriage is a fundamental right – the privileges and protections of which should be enjoyed by all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation. Throughout his time in Congress, Jim has authored and voted for major legislation in support of the LGBT community. Jim is a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus – a group committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world.
Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
Jim is a cosponsor of legislation to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), which became law in 1996 and granted states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. It also created a federal definition of the word “marriage,” defining it as between a man and a woman for federal law purposes. DOMA has far-reaching discriminatory effects that go well beyond marriage. Under DOMA, not only are LGBT couples precluded from federal marriage recognition, they also experience unequal Social Security, health, and veterans benefits. Jim has long opposed DOMA, and he is committed to its repeal.
Tax Fairness for Health Plan Beneficiaries
Jim authored and introduced the bipartisan “Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act” with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Richard Hannah (R-NY) and Nan Hayworth (R-NY). First introduced in the 106th Congress, this legislation eliminates the disparate tax burden of same-sex and opposite-sex couples who receive domestic partner benefits from their employers. On average, domestic partners pay an additional $2,000 in federal taxes that is not imposed on their married co-workers. Today, more than 80% of all Fortune 100 companies provide domestic partner benefits. Jim’s legislation has received strong support in the past and was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. It is also supported by a coalition of 77 major U.S. companies.
LGBT Couples' Taxes
In 2011, Jim authored a bipartisan letter to IRS Commissioner Schulman, signed by dozens of members of the Ways and Means Committee and other Members of Congress. Under the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), the federal government has not been able to keep up with the growing number of states that recognize same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. As a result of this, many LGBT married and partnered couples face serious difficulty in filing even the simplest of tax returns, and that causes significant issues for couples living in states with community property laws like Washington State. Jim recognizes the need for clear guidance from the IRS that could provide significant tax filing relief for these couples. Although true equality cannot be reached without repeal of DOMA, this letter, and its strong bipartisan support, urges the IRS to provide as much relief to these couples as possible.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
Jim is a cosponsor of this legislation, which revises federal law to prohibit job discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin or disability. The bill adds the categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity and expression" to the law as protected against workplace discrimination. Jim has been working with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), to secure its passage, and he is confident it will be passed.
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act
At the end of 2010, Congress passed the “Military Readiness Enhancement Act,” which effectively ended the ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in the military. Passage of this bill ends the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy responsible for forcing countless American soldiers to conceal their sexual orientation from their commanding officers and fellow soldiers or else face discharge or harassment. Jim has long supported repealing the ban on gay and lesbian service, and he welcomes the recent repeal as yet another step towards full equality under the law for all LGBT Americans.
School Improvement Act
In 2010, the country experienced a rash of LGBT youth suicides. These youths were the victims of severe harassment and bullying. Many young students feel unsafe at school because they are harassed about their sexual orientation. Jim has been a strong supporter of the "Safe Schools Improvement Act," which amends "No Child Left Behind" regulations to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct prohibiting harassment based on sexual orientation or gender expression. Now, more than ever, Jim believes we must focus on ensuring that all youth are able to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment. If you, or someone you know, are the victim of bullying, please visit The Trevor Project dedicated to suicide prevention for LGBT youth.