Baldwin: Congress Must Pass ENDA, Repeal DOMA

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Sunday April 15, 2012

A confident Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin received a standing ovation at the Victory Fund's National Champagne Brunch in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

During her speech at the Washington Hilton, Baldwin once again urged her colleagues to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. "There are now thousands of loving couples who are legally married in their own state, but not in the eyes of the federal government," she said. "We must ensure that every marriage, every family is recognized and honored by the federal government."

Baldwin, who announced her candidacy to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl last September, made no specific references to last week's announcement that President Barack Obama will not issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees. She stressed, however, that Congress needs to pass an LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

"Americans must never fear that they will be fired or denied a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Baldwin.

Baldwin further stressed that long-term unemployment, loss of health care, foreclosures and the depletion of retirement savings are four of the issues that she said are on the minds of most Wisconsin voters. She also said student loan debt remains a serious problem, referring to students whom she met on a tour of eight college campuses across the Badger State last week.

"It was really inspiring to meet so many smart, committed young people; it was also humbling to think about our government's responsibility to them," said Baldwin. "Most of them will be graduating with mountains of debt and right now, the Tea Party-dominated Republicans in the House of Representatives aren't doing anything to help them. I'm running to be a fighter for the people of my state; young and old alike."

Baldwin, 50, would become the first openly lesbian U.S. senator if elected in November.

A Public Policy Poll conducted in late February shows that Baldwin remains slightly ahead of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson. Her campaign announced last week that it raised more than $2 million in the first three months of the year; more than Thompson, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, former Congressman Mark Neumann and her other Republican challengers.

"We are off to a great start," said Baldwin.

Susan Atkins, chair of the Victory Fund's Board of Directors, referred to Baldwin as "our shero" before she introduced her.

"She's been at the forefront of the debates on 'don't ask, don't tell,' benefits for LGBT workers, employment non-discrimination, LGBT health and so many other important issues," she said. "She's also been outspoken and a tireless fighter for the families of Wisconsin."

Atkins also noted the significant milestone that Baldwin's election to the U.S. Senate would be for LGBT Americans.

"It's high time for a U.S. senator who is not only our ally, but our own homegrown shero," she said.

The June 5 recall election that could remove Gov. Scott Walker from office could potentially galvanize an already polarized Wisconsin electorate. Baldwin predicted that her GOP challengers will engage in a bitter campaign against each other ahead of the August primary.

"Like (former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt) Romney and (former House Speaker Newt) Gingrich and (former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick) Santorum, I expect them to tear each other up a little bit while exposing their true agenda," she said, conceding that she will face a difficult race against her eventual Republican challenger. "Wisconsin is a deeply and evenly divided state. With Gov. Walker's attacks on our state's progressive traditions, democracy I'm happy to report is alive and well in Wisconsin."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.