Washington - The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, released the following testimony offered today by Legislative Director Allison Herwitt at the National Platform Drafting Committee meeting held by the Democratic National Committee in Cleveland, Ohio.
Testimony from HRC Legislative Director Allison Herwitt:
Written Statement of Allison Herwitt
Human Rights Campaign
National Platform Drafting Committee
Democratic National Committee
August 1, 2008
Members of the Drafting Committee:
My name is Allison Herwitt and I am Legislative Director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, or GLBT, civil rights organization. On behalf of our over 700,000 members and supporters nationwide, I thank you for the opportunity to testify before the drafting committee today regarding the 2008 platform.
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge the Democratic Party's long-standing role as a friend, ally and advocate of the GLBT community. The Democratic Party Platform has historically reflected that commitment to this constituency, and, most recently, the 2004 platform included support for a number of policy priorities critical to our community. I come before you today to ask that you once again include strong support for the rights of GLBT people in the Democratic platform, and increase the range of support from the 2004 platform, by explicitly supporting the equality and dignity of transgender people.
HIV and AIDS remains a critical issue for GLBT people, as the epidemic continues to affect our community disproportionately, particularly young people and gay and bisexual men of color. We ask that the platform continue to call for robust funding of prevention, care and research efforts. Prevention programs must be comprehensive, science-based and focused on the communities they are meant to serve. We ask that the platform include a call for the development and implementation of a comprehensive national strategy on HIV/AIDS.
Despite advances, far too many GLBT Americans continue to face workplace discrimination. It remains legal to fire someone based solely on sexual orientation in 30 states, and in 38 states based on gender identity. Transgender people are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace and it is absolutely crucial that the platform explicitly support workplace protections based on gender identity. We ask that the platform call for the adoption of a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination against all members of our community.
GLBT people have proudly served in our nation as members of the Armed Forces and are defending our nation today in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Yet, our country maintains a policy that requires courageous men and women to serve in silence, fearing that they could be discharged for reasons unrelated to their honorable service to our country. We ask that the platform continue to call for an end to the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and to support the ability of patriotic gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans to serve openly and honestly.
Hate violence continues to threaten the ability of GLBT people to live their lives and participate in their communities. FBI statistics consistently show that a substantial portion of hate crimes are committed based on sexual orientation, and reports of particularly vicious violence against transgender people are all too frequent. We ask that the platform continue to support a strong federal hate crimes measure that protects all members of our community.
While marriage and other forms of relationship recognition are a reality for gay and lesbian couples in more and more states, federal law continues to deny them access to a myriad of rights and benefits. For example, these committed couples do not have equal access to Social Security survivor benefits, equitable taxation of their health insurance benefits, or the ability to attain permanent legal status for a foreign partner. We ask that the platform continue to support equal rights, benefits and responsibilities for gay and lesbian couples and to oppose any effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage.
We recognize the important role faith-based organizations play in tackling social problems, but are also keenly aware that religion is too often used a proxy to discriminate against GLBT people. We ask that the platform continue to insist that these organizations not be permitted to use federal funds to discriminate.
Landmark decisions like that in Lawrence v. Texas, guaranteeing the most basic right of GLBT people not to be branded as criminals for who they love, emphasize the importance of the judiciary to our community's well-being. We ask that the platform continue to support the nomination of fair and impartial judges.
On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, I thank you for the opportunity to testify today. We are proud to stand with Senator Obama and the leaders of the Democratic Party, who are committed to our vision of equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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