Georgia delegation scores poorly

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Only one member of Georgia’s 15-member Congressional delegation — Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Atlanta — scored a perfect 100 on a new report tracking their votes and sponsorships of gay and transgender issues. Six members of the state’s delegation received a score of zero.

The scores are part of the biennial scorecard from the Human Rights Campaign for the 110th Congress, which for the first time included both the Senate and House passing hate crime legislation that includes provisions for sexual orientation and gender identity. In the 110th Congress, senators increased their average score from 41.7 percent to 55.4 percent, while House members upped their scores from 40.5 percent to 47.9 percent.

“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community began the process of unraveling the damage of the last decade during this two-year Congressional session,” says Allison Herwitt, HRC’s legislative director. “The advancements made in this Congress on the Matthew Shepard Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, domestic partner benefits for federal civilian employees and repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ are critical building blocks upon which we will continue to educate Members of Congress on the importance of federal protections for LGBT Americans.”

Lewis scored a perfect 100 for the third consecutive time. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from DeKalb County who replaced a gay-friendly incumbent, scored 95, the second-highest among Georgia’s lawmakers. Rep. Sanford Bishop, also a Democrat, scored a 70, and Rep. David Scott, a Democrat, received a 55. Other House Democrats include John Barrow (25) and Jim Marshall (15).

Lewis and Johnson were among an elite group of gay-friendly lawmakers. Some 128 of 435 House members scored 90 percent or better on the HRC scorecard.

[h4]Republicans score poorly[/h4]

Among the seven House Republicans from Georgia, just one — Rep. Rom Price — scored anything other than zero. Price received a 10 for voting against a procedural motion that would have effectively killed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

A trio of Republican House members from Georgia — Lynn Westmoreland, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey — did not vote on several pieces of the legislation HRC used to rank members of Congress.

Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans, improved their scores from zero to 20 during this session of Congress for voting in favor of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The legislation includes a provision repealing a ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants.

Chambliss is in a competitive re-election campaign against Democrat Jim Martin, a gay-friendly former state lawmaker.

[h4]Congressional successes[/h4]

In the report, HRC cites several successes in the 110th Congress:

  • For the first time, the House introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity, with 185 Members of Congress cosponsoring the bill.
  • For the first time, the House held a vote on and passed a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • The House held the first-ever hearing focused solely on workplace discrimination faced by transgender Americans.
  • The House held the first hearings since 1993 examining the negative impact of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
  • The Senate held the first-ever hearing on the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations (DPBO) Act, which provides equal family benefits to LGBT federal civilian employees.
  • The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), a federal ban on same-sex unions, was not even scheduled for a vote.

    [h4]Scores of presidential candidates[/h4]

    Among some notable lawmakers included in the report:

  • Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, scored 94 on the scorecard. He lost points for not supporting HRC’s position on the Uniting American Families Act. Obama supports the bill but has not signed on as a co-sponsor. HRC’s scoring criteria included points for co-sponsoring the measure.
  • Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, scored 0.
  • Sen. Hillary Clinton, a former contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, scored 95. She also did not support HRC’s position on the Uniting American Families Act. She also supports UAFA but has not signed on as a co-sponsor.
  • Sen. Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate, also scored 95. Like Obama and Clinton, he supports UAFA but has not signed on as a co-sponsor.

    [h4]Legislation used in rankings[/h4]

    Legislation scored in this Congress included:?

  • The Matthew Shepard Act, H.R. 1592/S. 1105, to allow local law enforcement to access federal resources to investigate or prosecute violent crimes committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), H.R. 3685, to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), H.R. 2015, co-sponsorship of the inclusive version to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The HIV travel and immigration ban, included in the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), that took the first step toward ending the ban on travel and immigration to the United States by HIV-positive individuals.
  • The Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), H.R. 3326/S. 860, to allow states to provide Medicaid coverage to HIV positive persons.
  • The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), H.R. 2221/S. 1328, to provide same-sex partners of U.S. citizens equal immigration access.
  • The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA), H.R. 1246, which would repeal the military’s ban on open service by gays and lesbians.
  • The Tax Equity for Domestic Partner and Health Plan Beneficiaries Act (DP Tax), H.R. 1820/S. 1556, to equalize tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners.

    View the full scorecard here. (pdf)


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