Sheldon Whitehouse on Civil Rights

Democratic Jr Senator, previously attorney general


Worked entire career for civil rights

Chafee fired a shot at Sheldon Whitehouse’s “spotty record on civil rights,” at a RI Civil Rights Roundtable. Chafee criticized Whitehouse for “his insensitivity to the minority community after the Cornel Young tragedy.” Chafee also took Whitehouse to task for “first opposing then supporting a racial-profiling study.” Sandra Whitehouse, who sat in for her out-of-town husband last night, said her husband “has worked his entire career” for civil rights “and I think his record stands on its own.”
Source: Karen Lee Ziner in Providence Journal , Oct 12, 2006

Regulation of marriage has always been a state issue

Q: Should same sex marriage be considered a state or federal matter?

CHAFEE: The federal government has never been involved in marriage issues. So this is a state issue.

WHITEHOUSE: I support the right of states to allow same-sex marriage. It is wrong for the federal government to intervene in what has always been a state issue -- the regulation of marriage. I think it is particularly wrong to amend the Constitution to single out gay people and prevent them from exercising their rights.

Source: 2006 RI Senate debate, by RIBA and WPRI-12 , Sep 13, 2006

Don’t use Constitution to divide gay people from others

Q: What is your view on same sex marriage?

A: You can look back to the civil war to see constitutional problems like [amendments that single out gay people]. There was a time when in the US Constitution, black slaves were counted as 3/5ths of a human. It is absolutely wrong for us to use the Constitution to divide Americans. The Constitution, which I revere, gives us as citizens rights against the government. It should never be used by the government to divide us for its own political purposes.

Source: 2006 RI Senate debate, by RIBA and WPRI-12 , Sep 13, 2006

I support gay marriage

Q: Do you support gay marriage, civil unions or neither? What have you done in your career to support gay and lesbian rights?

A: I support gay marriage, and believe states and localities should be able to legally recognize them. I will oppose a Federal Marriage Amendment and any attempt to write discrimination into the Constitution. I’ve backed tougher sentences for hate crimes, and if elected, I fight for real equality for all Americans.

Source: RIfuture.org blog , Sep 12, 2006

Fight a constitutional ban on gay marriage

One of the first events at Whitehouse’s new Providence campaign office is an open house for the GLBT community.

If he’s elected to the Senate, he may have an opportunity to vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment promoted by conservatives to define marriage as between one man and one woman. What does Whitehouse, who has a background as a constitutional and civil rights lawyer, think of it? “It’s disgraceful that they are trying to push that,” he answered. “I would fight as hard as I could to keep that from happening,“ Whitehouse continued. ”It would be one of those things when I was an old grandfather my grandchildren would look up to me and say, ‘Grandpa, why did you ever let that happen? Where were you? How could you have done such a thing? I read that in the history books.’ That is, if they were not too embarrassed to bring it up with me. It’s so shameful.“

Source: Peter Cassels, EDGE National News , Apr 23, 2006

Repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military

It’s no secret that Whitehouse is a supporter of gay rights, particularly on two hot issues--creating marriage equality and repealing the ban on serving openly in the military.

His campaign had provided a statement endorsing lifting the ban on military service to EDGE for a story on how members of the state’s Congressional delegation stand on a repeal bill pending in the House of Representatives. “I think the legislation should go forward and I think we should move towards open status for gays in the military,” Whitehouse reiterated. “Right now, as you know, there are hundreds, thousands, if not tens of thousands of gay folks serving courageously and dutifully in the military. That the government should require them to deny their status and pretend to be something other than they are in order to serve their country is a mistake.”

Source: Peter Cassels, EDGE National News , Apr 23, 2006

Voted YES on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

Congressional Summary:
    Amends the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) to add or expand definitions of several terms used in such Act, including :
  1. "culturally specific services" to mean community-based services that offer culturally relevant and linguistically specific services and resources to culturally specific communities;
  2. "personally identifying information" with respect to a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
  3. "underserved populations" as populations that face barriers in accessing and using victim services because of geographic location, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity; and
  4. "youth" to mean a person who is 11 to 24 years old.

Opponent's Argument for voting No (The Week; Huffington Post, and The Atlantic): House Republicans had objected to provisions in the Senate bill that extended VAWA's protections to lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans. For example, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) voted against the VAWA bill because it was a "politically–motivated, constitutionally-dubious Senate version bent on dividing women into categories by race, transgender politics and sexual preference." The objections can be grouped in two broadly ideological areas--that the law is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and that it represents a "feminist" attack on family values. The act's grants have encouraged states to implement "mandatory-arrest" policies, under which police responding to domestic-violence calls are required to make an arrest. These policies were intended to combat the too-common situation in which a victim is intimidated into recanting an abuse accusation. Critics also say VAWA has been subject to waste, fraud, and abuse because of insufficient oversight.

Reference: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; Bill S. 47 ; vote number 13-SV019 on Feb 12, 2013

ENDA: prohibit employment discrimination for gays.

Whitehouse signed H.R.3017&S.1584

Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by covered entities (employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees). Prohibits preferential treatment or quotas. Allows only disparate treatment claims. Prohibits related retaliation.

    Makes this Act inapplicable to:
  1. religious organizations; and
  2. the relationship between the United States and members of the Armed Forces.
Source: Employment Non-Discrimination Act 09-HR3017 on Jun 24, 2009

Prohibit sexual-identity discrimination at schools.

Whitehouse signed Student Non-Discrimination Act

Source: HR.998&S.555 11-S0555 on Mar 10, 2011

Constitutional Amendment for women's equal rights.

Whitehouse signed Equal Rights Amendment for men and women

JOINT RESOLUTION: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women. Constitutional Amendment: Prohibits denying or abridging equality of rights under the law by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives: That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of 3/4ths of the several States:
  1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

[Explanatory note from Wikipedia.com and OnTheIssues.org]:

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress, but failed to gain ratification before its June 30, 1982 deadline. This new proposed amendment is identical in wording to the original 1972 proposed amendment. It was proposed in Congress in every session from 1923 through 1970 prior to passing in 1972; and has been re-introduced in Congress in every session since 1982 after its failure at ratification. The current version removes the Congressionally imposed deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, so that if the bill passes Congress, states have no deadline as they did in 1982.

Source: HJR69&SJR21 11-SJR21 on Jun 22, 2011

Endorsed as "preferred" by The Feminist Majority indicating pro-women's rights.

Whitehouse is endorsed by by the Feminist Majority on women's rights

The Feminist Majority endorses candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. In addition to the stronger "endorsement," the organization also determines "preferred" candidates in races where they do not endorse. Their mission statement:

"Our mission is to empower feminists, who are the majority, and to win equality for women at the decision-making tables of the state, nation, and the world. The Feminist Majority promotes non-discrimination on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, age, marital status, nation of origin, size or disability. The purpose of Feminist Majority is to promote equality for women and men, non-violence, reproductive health, peace, social justice and economic development and to enhance feminist participation in public policy. Feminist Majority supports workers’ collective bargaining, pay equity, and end of sweatshops. We encourage programs directed at the preservation of the environment."

Source: FeministMajority.org website 12-FemMaj on Oct 31, 2012

Enforce against wage discrimination based on gender.

Whitehouse co-sponsored Paycheck Fairness Act

    Congress finds the following:
  1. Women have entered the workforce in record numbers over the past 50 years.
  2. Despite the enactment of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, many women continue to earn significantly lower pay than men for equal work. These pay disparities exist in both the private and governmental sectors. In many instances, the pay disparities can only be due to continued intentional discrimination or the lingering effects of past discrimination.
  3. The existence of such pay disparities depresses the wages of working families who rely on the wages of all members of the family to make ends meet; and undermines women's retirement security.
  4. Artificial barriers to the elimination of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex continue to exist decades after the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. These barriers have resulted because the Equal Pay Act has not worked as Congress originally intended.
  5. The Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have important and unique responsibilities to help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.
  6. The Department of Labor is responsible for investigating and prosecuting equal pay violations, especially systemic violations, and in enforcing all of its mandates.
  7. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the primary enforcement agency for claims made under the Equal Pay Act.
  8. With a stronger commitment [to enforcement], increased information on wage data and more effective remedies, women will be better able to recognize and enforce their rights.
  9. Certain employers have already made great strides in eradicating unfair pay disparities in the workplace and their achievements should be recognized.
Source: S.84&H.R.377 13-S0084 on Jan 23, 2013

Enforce against anti-gay discrimination in public schools.

Whitehouse co-sponsored Student Non-Discrimination Act

Congressional Summary: