As an African-American man, a child of an interracial marriage, a committed scholar, attorney and activist who works to protect the Bill of Rights, I am sensitive to the struggle for civil rights. As a state Senator, I have taken on the issue of civil rights for the LGBT community as if they were my own struggle because I believe strongly that the infringement of rights for any one group eventually endangers the rights enjoyed under law by the entire population. Since 1996, I have been the sponsor or a chief co-sponsor of measures to expand civil liberties for the LGBT community including hate-crimes legislation, adoption rights and the extension of basic civil rights to protect LGBT persons from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment and credit.
Today, I am a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Unlike any of my opponents, I have a legislative track record. No one has to guess about what I will do in Washington. My record makes it very clear. I will be an unapologetic voice for civil rights in the U.S. Senate.
For the record, I opposed DOMA [ the Defense of Marriage Act ] in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. This is an effort to demonize people for political advantage, and should be resisted.
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When Members of Congress passed DOMA, they were not interested in strengthening family values or protecting civil liberties. They were only interested in perpetuating division and affirming a wedge issue.
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Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist. While the repeal of DOMA is essential, the unfortunate truth is that it is unlikely with Mr. Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress.
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We must be careful to keep our eyes on the prize — equal rights for every American. We must continue to fight for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We must vigorously expand hate-crime legislation and be vigilant about how these laws are enforced. We must continue to expand adoption rights to make them consistent and seamless throughout all 50 states, and we must repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' military policy.
I know how important the issue of equal rights is to the LGBT community. I share your sense of urgency. If I am elected U.S. Senator, you can be confident that my colleagues in the Senate and the President will know my position.
Democratic Candidate for the U.S. Senate
11 February 2004 Letter published in the Windy City Times