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  WINDY CITY TIMES

ELECTIONS 2016, SENATE: Duckworth on LGBT issues; HRC switches backing to her
by Matt Simonette
2016-10-31

This article shared 280 times since Mon Oct 31, 2016
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U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth—who's running to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in the Nov. 8 general election—said that the LGBT community has to be vigilant about widespread and persistent right-wing attacks on legislative and legal victories that they've enjoyed in recent years. Basic struggles, she added, are "still there."

"I feel like the LGBT community may feel like the struggles have been won, but I really think the struggles are just now starting at a low level … where those people who oppose LGBT issues and the reality of what it means to be equal are going to work at [a local] level to change the system and introduce new laws," Duckworth said. "If we don't pay attention to them, they will spread across this country. It's the same as what we saw with reproductive rights—they've been going through state by state, enacting laws and regulations."

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), on Oct. 29, reversed its controversial endorsement of Kirk following a remark about Duckworth's heritage during an Oct. 27 debate, and endorsed Duckworth instead.

"Leadership is about more than the legislation one sponsors and the votes one casts," said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement. "On [Oct. 27], Senator Kirk's comments about his opponent's heritage were deeply offensive and racist. His attempt to use Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth's race as a means to undermine her family's American heritage and patriotism is beyond reprehensible. Yesterday, Senator Kirk tweeted an apology that failed to adequately address the real harm and magnitude of his words."

Duckworth, for her part, accepted Kirk's apology on Twitter on Oct. 28: "Thanks, Sen. Kirk. Let's honor my family's service—and your own—by sticking to the issues for the final week."

But Duckworth adamantly maintained that Kirk has sat on the fence when it comes to major issues. ( Windy City Times was, as of press time, unable to coordinate an interview with Kirk's election campaign. )

"He's not really done much of anything," Duckworth explained. "He's been a senator for six years and you haven't seen much of anything that he's done. When it's an election year, he shows up and gets his photos taken. He may even cast a vote or two along the lines of what he needs to maintain his image, but never when those votes were tie-breaker votes, never when those votes were significant to get anything done. I, on the other hand, have been out there working on issues from my first days in the House."

One example she gave about an issue she's been passionate about is the Department of Defense's family-leave policy. "Because my husband was still [on] active duty when I had when we had our baby girl, he only got 10 days' leave. I asked, 'Is that true for all men in the military? It turned out it was. If you gave birth to the child, you had six weeks' leave, and even that's not enough."

She worked on the issue for a long time on the issue, but said that the issue would be especially pertinent in the wake of Don't Ask Don't Tell being struck down.

"What are you going to do when there are two fathers?" Duckworth asked. "What about service members who are married and serving openly. If they adopt or have a surrogate child, are they each only going to get 10 days? Is the army going to discriminate against the child because of the fact that the parent didn't give birth to the child? That's one of the things I'm working on right now—to change maternity and paternity leave policies to a family leave policy, which I think would be about 12 weeks combined."

Although marriage equality is the law of the land, Duckworth said the LGBT community must remain vigilant about defending their legal freedoms, citing Township High School District 211, which is in her legislative district, as an example. In that episode, a transgender girl fought for the right to change in the girls' locker room, and the district nearly lost federal funding when the school was found not to be in compliance with Title IX regulations. The district reached an agreement with legislators, but that deal has now been challenged in federal court.

"The solution was not the ideal one, that the student could change in a curtained off area," Duckworth said. "I didn't feel like she should have to do that, but the student agreed to the compromise, which showed the level of maturity that she had. Yet, you had people from outside issuing court challenges against it, people with no skin in this other than opposing this child."

Duckworth also calls economic development a "huge issue. As I travel the state, people say that the economy is getting better but they're not seeing it in their home town. We must get the economic revival in manufacturing and medium- and small-businesses, because those are the ones that keep jobs here. …Tied to that is investment in education. If we don't have an educated work force, we don't have companies that can compete on a global scale."

She added that she would demand both a vote and a hearing on Merrick Garland's nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court. "I think the Senate needs to do its job in demanding hearings and demanding that leadership do its job," Duckworth said. "I don't know if Hillary is going to continue that nomination of Garland, but the president's nominee, regardless of whether that's Hillary or Donald Trump, deserves a hearing."

See TammyDuckworth.com .


This article shared 280 times since Mon Oct 31, 2016
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