HRC Honors Pro-Equality Female Senators for Women’s History Month 2017 Pearls of Wisdom


by Brian Mcbride March 26, 2017

While the outcome in the 2016 Presidential race was devastating for many in the LGBTQ community, the election wasn’t all bad news. In down ballot races, the election proved that pro-equality women can still come out on top. Hillary Clinton didn’t break the highest and hardest glass ceiling, but four incredible women made history in their own right by winning U.S. Senate seats: Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Maggie Hassan and Kamala Harris.

This Women’s History Month, we’re honoring these female advocates who made U.S. Senate history: Cortez Masto is the country’s first-ever Latina senator; Duckworth is the first-ever Thai American senator, and the first woman senator to serve in a combat role in the U.S. Army; and Harris is the country’s first Indian American senator, and California’s first African American senator.

The 115th U.S. Senate has more women members than ever before — a record-breaking 21 — including Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is the nation’s first openly-lesbian U.S. Senator.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

As Nevada’s Senator, Cortez Masto is committed to working with HRC to ensure that historic LGBTQ equality gains are protected and to fight LGBTQ discrimination. She has said, “It is outrageous that in 2016 people can still be at risk of losing their jobs in this country because of whom they love.. in the Senate I will focus on ensuring LGBT people are treated equally under the law by working to end discrimination.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

Senator Tammy Duckworth has been a strong LGBTQ ally in the House of Representatives. Duckworth received a perfect score on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for both of her terms in the House of Representatives. She is a cosponsor of the Equality Act and the Global Respect Act, which would provide a means to prevent individuals who violate the human rights of LGBTQ people from entry into the United States.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark marriage equality case, Obergefell v. Hodges, she said, “I am so proud that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of love, commitment and equality today. The LGBT community is entitled to the same rights afforded to everyone else and our nation has taken an enormous step towards being more fair and just.”

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Throughout her career, Maggie Hassan has fought for the rights of all citizens to participate fully in the civic and economic life of their communities. As a state senator, she worked tirelessly to achieve marriage equality, helping make New Hampshire one of the first states to pass legislation ensuring access to legal marriage for all. Last year, as Governor of New Hampshire, she took a bold and historic step by issuing an executive order extending vitally important non-discrimination protections to transgender people in New Hampshire with respect to government employment, contracts and programs.

Hassan’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is illustrated in a digital ad HRC released in support of Hassan, “Raymond Braun Reflects on Why He Came Out to Maggie Hassan.” “I’ve known Maggie Hassan for more than 10 years,” Braun said, “and I’ve seen firsthand what a great champion she is for equality. Maggie was one of the first people I came out to, and I am honored to be able to share my experiences with the great people of New Hampshire.”

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)

As California Attorney General, Kamala Harris stood up for LGBTQ rights. She led the team that helped bring down California’s Proposition 8 at the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 2015, worked to  stop an abhorrent and unconstitutional proposed ballot initiative that could have criminalized same-sex relationships, potentially threatening those convicted with death. She advanced a robust platform for LGBTQ equality in her Senate campaign, fighting for LGBTQ youth, and vowing to work to include essential protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 2014, Harris spoke at HRC’s Los Angeles Gala, where she shared her experience fighting for marriage equality in California and across the United States. She said, “Let us stand together on the side of fighting for justice and equality,” and called for LGBTQ equality, reproductive health rights, immigration reform and voting rights.

Despite the uphill climb for this congress to advance legislation protecting and defending the rights of the LGBTQ community, members of Congress plan to reintroduce the Equality Act during this legislative session — proving that these remarkable women will continue to stand on the right side of history.

House panel OKs workplace accommodations for pregnant women, new mothers

Beth Bern

House backs $60-a-year tax hike to repair SC’s ragged roads

gas tax

The S.C. House voted 97-18 Wednesday to increase the state’s gas tax and other driving fees to raise about $600 million a year to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

Under the plan, the state’s gas tax would increase by 2 cents a gallon each year for the next five years. When fully phased in, the 10-cent-a-gallon increase would cost the average S.C. driver $60 a year.

The state Department of Transportation estimates it needs an added $1 billion a year to repair and maintain S.C. roads.

“We’re at crisis point when it comes to roads in South Carolina,” said House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, who has championed the bill.

The House approved the tax increase with a wide enough majority to override a potential veto by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster.

McMaster, a Richland Republican who faces running for governor in 2018 in a tax-averse GOP primary, has not said whether he will veto the plan. Instead, he has said taxes should be raised only as a last resort.

After a perfunctory final House vote Thursday, the tax-hike bill will go to the state Senate.

There, the bill faces the hurdle of libertarian-leaning state Sen. Tom Davis, the Beaufort Republican who has filibustered a gas-tax increase two years in a row. Pro- and anti-gas-tax hike groups also are expected to roll out lobbying efforts.

But the GOP-controlled House overwhelmingly voted to raise the gas tax Wednesday.

“Refusing to compromise will not solve our roads problem, but simply places politics above responsible public policy,” said House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington. “A delayed resolution continues to threaten the safety of South Carolina drivers and increases costs for repair and resurfacing of decaying roads and bridges.”

The state’s 16.75 cent-a-gallon gas tax, last increased 30 years ago, is the second-lowest in the nation.

“We don’t have enough money to keep our roads in a safe condition,” said state Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun.

 sc roads2

The first priority of the new money would be to enact a safety program for the state’s deadly rural roads, costing roughly $50 million a year, said S.C. Transportation Department chief Christy Hall. That plan includes adding rumble strips to alert drivers they are near a road’s edge and widening shoulders to give drivers time to correct if they run off the highway.

According to the Transportation Department:

▪ Roughly half of an added $600 million a year from the higher gas tax and driving fees would be spent to improve the condition of the pavement on the state’s roads. The goal is to bring 58 percent of the state’s primary roads into good condition.

▪ Another $200 million would be spent to widen interstates and launch a freight-mobility program.

  •  Roughly $60 million would improve day-to-day maintenance levels to “fair,” a level with few deficiencies. Highway workers now are struggling to keep up the highway system, much of it in poor condition.

Supporters of the tax hike pointed to the condition of the state’s roads.

“You’ve got potholes on the interstate,” said state Rep. Joe Jefferson, D-Berkeley, adding lawmakers could override any veto by Gov. McMaster.

SC House Passes Bill to Expand Definition of Anti-Semitism

beth bernstein

Columbia, SC (WLTX)- House lawmakers voted 103-3, passing a bill aimed to combat anti-semitism on college and universities in the wake of recent incidents nationwide.

The bill (H.3643) would require schools to use the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-semitism, a move that had critiques concerned about infringing on their first amendment rights.

“The State Department’s mission is not to set policy for American Citizens,” Rep. Jonathan Hill said on the House Floor Thursday. “The definition that they apply to other nations in determining whether an action is anti-semetic may not be the best way to measure that for American citizens.”

Rep. Beth Bernstein, co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would instead address any criminal activity that is spun from anti-semitism.

“It does not affect the curriculum of what a professor wants to teach in class,” Bernstein said. “This is aimed at combating all of the anti-semetic incidents that we are seeing across the nation at an alarming rate.”

The bill’s language includes that “Nothing in this act may be construed to diminish or infringe upon any rights afforded by the first amendment to the U.S. constitution.”

rick quinn

The State Department’s examples of anti-semitism under their definition are below:

Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism:

-Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews (often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion).

-Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective—especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

-Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the state of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

-Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

-Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.

What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?

EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel, taking into account the overall context could include:


-Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis

-Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis

-Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions


-Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation

-Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations


-Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

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