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Civil Rights

 

Elections and Access to Voting
 

The right of all Americans to fully participate in our democracy is being threatened today in ways we haven’t seen since the civil rights and post-Watergate eras.  In the 1960’s, passage of the Voting Rights Act gave all Americans equal access to our election process, regardless of race. In the 1970’s, The Federal Election Campaign Act brought a new era of transparency and accountability in campaign finance, and thirty years later Congress passed the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act to rid the system of unchecked corporate soft-money.  Unfortunately the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision undermines that intent, and the result is in more instead of less money in politics. 
 
Across the country, several states are trying to turn the clock back on hard-earned advancements in voting rights.  Voter suppression efforts and identification laws often restrict voting access for minority, military, disabled, and low-income voters, as well as seniors and college students.  To address this issue I have signed on as a cosponsor of the Voter Empowerment Act, which will prohibit the egregious practices that are designed to prevent people from having their ballot counted.
 
The Supreme Court recently struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which for a half century has been essential to preventing states with a history of discrimination from disenfranchising minority voters. This ruling is very disappointing and wrongheaded. Almost immediately a number of these states moved to restrict voting rights for their citizens.  I pledge to work with my colleagues in Congress to protect the right to vote. Congress must move quickly to reenact a new Section 4 to meet the court’s newly announced standards.
 
Recently I joined many of my colleagues in sending a letter to 3200 college and university presidents encouraging them to provide voter registration opportunities to their students, and to educate their students about requirements for voting.  Greater voter turnout can only be achieved when our community institutions, in addition to government, are involved  in expanding access to voting.
 

Campaign Finance
 

The Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United v. FEC has greatly impacted the funding of campaigns. Gone is the transparency and accountability that kept shadowy organizations with hidden backers from influencing our elections. The result of Citizens United has been to allow anonymous donors to drown out the voice of everyday Americans.
 
Citizens United is a constitutional decision that can’t be overruled by Congress without ratification of a constitutional amendment. In the meantime, Congress can require more disclosure. I have cosponsored the DISCLOSE Act, and have signed a discharge petition to request that the Speaker bring it to the floor of the House for a vote.  Passing this bill will be a first step toward ensuring that all Americans know who is funding political campaigns. In the long term I support the DARE plan, which consists of four steps - Disclose, Amend, Reform, Elect - that will fix our broken campaign finance system. This plan includes:
 
• Disclosure of the donors to Super PAC-associated 501(c)(4) organizations, and corporations that are spending many millions of dollars to influence election outcomes.
• Amend the constitution to make clear that regulation of campaign finance does not violate the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.
• Reform the campaign finance system by setting up a publicly financed small-donor matching program.
• Elect candidates who support campaign finance reform.
 

LGBTQ
 

All Americans deserve equal rights, including the right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I am a proud cosponsor of both the Respect for Marriage Act, which will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the Social Security Equality Act to extend Social Security benefits to same-sex partners. Additionally I have cosponsored bills to guarantee equal access to health care, COBRA benefits, family and medical leave, and other employment benefits.  
 
I also strongly support legislation to end government discrimination against same sex couples in adoption and immigration. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act will eliminate bias against same-sex couples in state adoption laws, and the Uniting American Families Act will treat same-sex immigrant partners of American citizens the same as opposite-sex immigrant partners of American citizens for visa purposes.
 

Access to Justice  
 

Our democracy relies on an accessible and effective justice system to adjudicate rights and wrongs. When I was in law school, I helped low-income families access quality legal advice through Legal Aid. More than 60 million Americans qualify for legal assistance programs and these attorneys assist the most vulnerable in our society, including military veterans seeking disability benefits, women seeking protection from their abusers, and families facing unlawful evictions. I have fought hard for full funding for legal aid, and I oppose efforts to eliminate funding for these vital programs.

 

More on Civil Rights

November 30, 2017 In The News

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to require all Members of Congress and Congressional staff participate in annual training to prevent all forms of workplace harassment and discrimination.

November 30, 2017 In The News

A unanimous U.S. Senate vote this week has given new hope to backers of promised housing for Native Americans along the Columbia River east of Portland.

In the wake of a White House decision to halt development of promised houses for Columbia River tribal members, a smaller initiative to maintain and upgrade 31 existing fishing sites where sometimes dozens of Native fishing crews live at least six months of the year is again gaining traction.

November 29, 2017 Press Release
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to require all Members of Congress and Congressional staff participate in annual training to prevent all forms of workplace harassment and discrimination.
November 29, 2017 In The News

Oregon State announced Wednesday night that it will hire Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith as head coach. But the steps to get to Smith were different for Oregon State than almost any other public institution in the country.

November 29, 2017 In The News

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., introduced legislation Wednesday that allows sexual harassment victims on Capitol Hill to release the names of their perpetrators and taxpayer-funded financial settlements.

Victims currently must sign a nondisclosure agreement as part of the settlement process through the Office of Compliance. The legislation would remove the requirement, giving victims the option to speak publicly.

November 28, 2017 In The News

The latter half of 2017 will be remembered as the time that women all over the globe drew a line in the sand.

No longer will sexual harassment be endured silently. No longer will abusers operate with impunity. No longer will men dominate discussion and decision-making in boardrooms, capitol buildings and households across the country. And no longer will the people who hear these stories demean the accusers, and pick through their lives like vultures in search of rotten meat.

November 26, 2017 In The News

Lawmakers are heading back to Capitol Hill after the Thanksgiving break with a lot to accomplish before the end of the year.

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici sat down with KATU’s Deb Knapp before the holiday weekend for a conversation on what she hopes to accomplish after Congress resumes.

November 7, 2017 Press Release
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Senator Jeff Merkley introduced legislation that aims to improve the Older Americans Act (OAA) by better serving LGBT older Americans and increasing access to culturally competent services and support programs.
November 2, 2017 Press Release
Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Ted Deutch, and Charlie Crist introduced legislation that aims to improve the Older Americans Act (OAA) by better serving LGBT elders and increasing access to culturally competent services and support programs.
October 26, 2017 Press Release
Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer released the response they received from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after the lawmakers repeatedly asked about the agency’s policies and procedures.