Civil & Constitutional Rights
The rights and freedoms of citizens need to be protected. When the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and equal opportunity are unfairly denied to a person or a group of people, it is the role of the federal government to step in and fulfill the promise of America.
I firmly believe that all people deserve equal protection under the law, regardless of who they love. Recent years have seen monumental victories for marriage equality. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States declared Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. By striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Constitutional right to equality for all Americans regardless of who they love. The Supreme Court’s decisions exhibit the tremendous progress we have made towards full equality, but we must remain committed to doing all we can to make sure equal opportunity and justice are realities for all Americans.
As the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, one of my top priorities has always been to ensure that we take care of the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces, as well as our veterans, to ensure that they continue to receive the pay and benefits they deserve. That is why I introduced the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act to ensure equal benefits for same-sex spouses in the military. All spouses of those serving in our Armed Services make tremendous sacrifices for our country, and no one should be prevented from receiving hard-earned benefits simply because they are the same sex as their partner.
Protecting Equal Opportunity
Historically, one of the most important duties of the federal government has been creating, improving, and enforcing laws that ensure all citizens have equal access to opportunities to improve their lives. I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that students feel safe from bullying and discrimination in their schools by cosponsoring the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I have supported laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that ensure women are paid equal to men for doing the same job. I have also supported legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would make it illegal for an employer to hire, fire, promote, or engage in any other personnel decisions based purely on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, sex, disability, gender, or gender identity.
Students have the right to learn without fear of violence or aggression. Similarly, workers should be treated based on their performance, and not fear losing their jobs because of who they are. By instituting these bills into law and securing the civil rights of students and workers, all people will have the opportunity to be successful.
I will continue to work for equal rights for all Americans. The United States is the greatest country in the world and no one should be discriminated against or denied their basic rights here.
Since its passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) has served as a benchmark to ensure all Americans’ voices are heard at the ballot box. But on June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated Section Four of the VRA, a provision that protects voting rights in nine states that historically have had discriminatory voting practices. The Supreme Court found that Section Four had an outdated formula that placed undue and outdated federal burden on the nine states.
I was very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling. By striking Section Four, the Supreme Court limited the federal government’s ability to implement Section Five, consequently rendering this section of the VRA powerless and threatening the right to vote for many Americans. Any state can now implement Voter ID laws and redraw district lines to dilute the voices of large populations of mainly racial and ethnic minorities without federal oversight. In the 2012 election, low income voters and people of color, mainly African American and Latino voters, waited in line to vote twice as long as white voters. Additionally, many local and state laws and policies were put into effect subjecting low-income Americans, especially those of color, to undue electoral burden.
Since first coming to Congress, I have been a strong advocate for voting rights, and remain committed to doing all I can to ensure that no voter experiences discrimination. We need elections where the issues are what matter and campaigns compete on the quality of their ideas. I have taken numerous efforts to protect and expand upon voting rights at the federal level.
- Taking Voter Suppression to Court: Along with 90 of my colleagues, I filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, in support of Section Five of the VRA.
- Empowering Everyone to Vote: Original cosponsor of Rep. John Lewis’ Voter Empowerment Act of 2015, which requires each state to allow online voter registration, in addition to providing grants and other incentives to encourage states to better promote voter registration. The bill also prevents tactics like voter caging, and looks at the ways ballots and registrations are verified. I have also cosponsored H.R. 5488 the Voting Access Act of 2016. It amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to establish a set of national standards for the location of polling places during elections to federal office, to ensure that all communities have sufficient access. Recognizing the importance of a modern voting system, I have cosponsored the Verifying Optimal Tools for Elections Act, which establishes grants for states to ensure that they have the capability to update any outdated voting machines.
- Ensuring Voting Rights for Native Communities: Cosponsor of Rep. Terri Sewell’s Voting Rights Advancement Act which increases access to new voting locations on tribal lands, while allowing federal courts to continue protecting voting rights of diverse communities in the face of new and restrictive voting legislation passed by states.
- Offering Alternatives to Voter ID Laws: Cosponsor of the America Votes Act of 2015. Introduced by Congressman Larsen, this bill would allow voters to present a sworn written statement, signed under penalty of perjury, as valid identification to vote in federal elections.
- Celebrating Our Right to Vote: Cosponsor of H.RES.123, a resolution expressing Congressional support for the designation of August 6 as National Voting Rights Day.
- Remembering Our 15th Amendment Rights: Cosponsor of H.RES.601, a resolution recognizing the 146th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which prohibits the government from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race.
Fair elections and transparent voting practices will strengthen our nation for generations to come. I will continue to support our election system and fight to protect every voter.
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Who: Congressman Adam Smith
What: Rep. Smith is hosting a Town Hall event where constituents can meet and interact with the Congressman and voice concerns on issues of the budget, immigration, education, the economy, national security and more.
When: Saturday, March 4, 2017, 10:00 am to 11:30 am
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