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Civil Rights

 

Education and Labor

A quality public education is a powerful force for economic and social mobility. As Chair of the Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, I am working to expand opportunities for people of all backgrounds. We must close the equity gap for students of color, who continue to face disparate outcomes in our public education system.

 

The Trump administration has been undermining, rather than protecting, the civil rights of students and workers. I take seriously the obligation of Congress to advance equity, hold institutions accountable, and provide meaningful oversight of the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the Trump administration. I will fight for all students and workers so they can learn and work in safe, inclusive, and welcoming environments.

LGBTQ Equality

All Americans should be free from discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I have long advocated for LGBTQ rights. I’ve challenged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reinstate protections for transgender students, and I’m leading the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, which would update the Older Americans Act to strengthen safeguards for LGBT elders.

 

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Equality Act, H.R. 5, to amend our civil rights laws to clarify that prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex includes prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.


Elections and Access to Voting

The right to vote is the core of our democracy, and it is critical that all Americans who qualify to vote have the opportunity to make their voices heard at the polls. For too long our nation did not allow minorities to vote; even after that right was afforded to all Americans, many jurisdictions engaged in shameful practices that effectively made it impossible for many citizens to exercise their rights.

 

In the 1960’s, the Voting Rights Act gave all citizens 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. 

 

But the right of all citizens to fully participate in our democracy is under threat in ways we haven’t seen since the civil rights and post-Watergate eras. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision undermined that intent. There is no question that Citizens United has harmed our democracy, and it must be overturned. The Supreme Court further undermined voting rights by overturning key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, making it easier for states and localities to implement discriminatory practices that block access to the ballot box.

 

Voter suppression efforts and voter identification laws often restrict access for minority, military, disabled, and low-income voters, as well as seniors and college students. I am also deeply concerned about potential foreign interference in elections.

 

I am a strong supporter of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which addresses campaign finance reform, voting rights, election security, accountability for government officials, and more. It includes many of the voting provisions that Oregonians have already adopted and appreciate, helping states across the country follow Oregon’s lead by expanding automatic voter registration, online registration, having paper ballots, and vote-by-mail to make it easier for millions of people to exercise their right to vote.

 

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

October 22, 2019 Press Release
We are concerned that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is failing to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ students.
October 22, 2019 In The News

Legislation sponsored by a Democrat that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers is finding some support across the aisle, but many Republicans are still reluctant to get behind the measure.

October 15, 2019 Press Release
“I hear from many people who tell me that higher education is out of reach, or who are struggling with burdensome student loan debt. These conversations have guided my efforts to improve access to higher education, and I’m proud of the work we have done crafting the College Affordability Act.”
October 8, 2019 In The News

While the impeachment of Donald Trump was at the top of mind at Gearhart’s congressional town hall Monday, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici fielded questions about the federal deficit, foreign policy and her position on equal rights.

But overall it was the topic of civility that dominated evening, the fifth of sixth town hall events in the state.

October 7, 2019 In The News

As Democrats in the House of Representatives begin an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, Western Washington County residents packed the Cornelius Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 2, to ask questions of U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici.

Multiple people asked Bonamici about the topic that has recently dominated national news: impeachment.

"We have a responsibility to hold this administration accountable," Bonamici said. 

September 24, 2019 In The News

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continues to file charges and lawsuits but is not pursuing its mandate to combat discrimination as vigorously as it could because it does not have a full complement of commissioners, experts say.

September 23, 2019 In The News

Federal leaders who enforce anti-discrimination laws assured House members last week that they're still committed to protecting workers' civil rights despite lawmakers' criticism about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC's) decision not to collect pay data—broken down by job category, race, sex and ethnicity—in the future.

September 19, 2019 In The News

EEOC last year logged the fewest investigators to probe civil rights complaints in at least nine years, POLITICO’s Rebecca Rainey reports. The investigators numbered 741 in April 2018 and averaged 758 during that fiscal year. By comparison, during the last four years of the Obama administration there was an average of 825 EEOC investigators.

August 30, 2019 In The News

Washington County resident Isidro Andrade Tafolla and the Oregon branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a federal claim against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeking $100,000 for his humiliation, emotional distress and psychological harm after he was questioned by ICE agents in September 2017.?

The case raises troubling questions about how people of color are treated in our community. And about how "safe" a "safe haven" our courthouses are.

August 13, 2019 In The News

A Forest Grove man detained by immigration officials outside the Washington County Circuit Court in Hillsboro says he's fighting back.