A Personal Preference for Civil Rights: Rating Chris Bell

Thanks to a comment at PinkDome we checked out the Congressional voting
record of Chris Bell who will likely be running for Governor of
Texas. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gives Bell a rating of 100
percent for his votes in the 108th Congress and three special notes for
his co-sponsorship of legislation that was not rated. So we’ll
call it a rating of 103 percent, which is quite a curve-setter for the
rest of the Texas delegation.

In the PinkDome interview, Bell expresses a personal preference against
gay marriage. This reminds us of dedicated Civil Rights activists
who have personal preferences about inter-racial marriage also, but whose
wisdom never wavers from public commitments to providing a vigorous Civil
Rights context for the exercise of personal preference. Just as
codes have thankfully withered away that would outlaw inter-racial or
inter-ethnic marriage, there is no reason to replant those mean seeds
in the area of sexual orientation. So we are glad to see that Bell has a personal preference for Civil Rights.

Only Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) matches Bell’s rankings by the HRC on all
counts, upholding the fine tradition of her district as the conscience
of Texas in Washington (here are the voters who elected Barbara Jordan
and Mickey Leland). Although Eddie Bernice
Johnson (D-Dallas) also gets 100 percent, she doesn’t score the extra
credit. Honorable mentions go to Lloyd Doggett (D-South Texas)
and Martin Frost (D-Dallas) whose single shortcoming was a failure to
support permanent partners for immigrants.

Republican re-districting deliberately targeted liberal white seats
held by Bell, Frost, and Doggett, with the result that only Doggett
survived. A Bell campaign for Governor appears to hold clear
promise of a Civil Rights renewal in Texas. We only hope that
putting things so clearly won’t hurt him too much. Pasted below
are the reasons why HRC rated Bell as a perfect lawmaker.–gm

1) MARRIAGE PROTECTION AMENDMENT, H.J. RES. 106, ROLL CALL VOTE 494
Th e Federal Marriage Amendment, introduced in the House by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo.,
would enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution by defi ning marriage as the union
between one man and one woman and prohibiting federal and state laws from conferring same-sex
couples with marital status and “the legal incidents thereof,” thereby endangering civil unions and
domestic partnership benefi ts. Th e amendment was brought to the House fl oor for a vote Sept. 30,
2004. It needed a 2/3 majority in the House to pass. Th e amendment failed by a vote of 227 to 186:
Democrats — 36 yes, 158 no; Republicans — 191 yes, 27 no; Independents — 0 yes , 1 no. HRC
opposed this amendment — and the vote is double-weighted in the fi nal House scores.

2) PELOSI MOTION TO INSTRUCT CONFEREES, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
AUTHORIZATION. H.R. 4200
On Sept. 28, 2004, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., off ered a non-binding motion to instruct the House
Department of Defense authorization conferees to accept the Senate-passed, Kennedy-Smith hate
crimes amendment. (See Vote 2 in the Senate.) Th is amendment would add real or perceived sexual orientation,
gender and disability to existing law and remove the overly burdensome restriction on federal
involvement in helping investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Th e Pelosi motion passed Sept. 28,
2004, by a vote of 213 to 186. Th irty-three representatives did not vote: Democrats — 182 yes, 9 no;
Republicans — 31 yes, 177 no; Independents — 0 yes, 0 no. HRC supported this motion.

3) MARRIAGE PROTECTION ACT OF 2004, H.R. 3313
Th e House voted July 22, 2004, to pass legislation, introduced by Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind.,
that would strip federal court jurisdiction over questions relating to the Defense of Marriage Act,
closing the courtroom doors to a group of Americans. Th e House passed the legislation with a
vote of 233-194, with eight members abstaining. Republicans — 206 yes, 17 no; Democrats
— 27 yes, 176 no; Independents — 0 yes, 1 no. HRC opposed this legislation.

4) LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT HATE CRIMES PREVENTION ACT OF 2004,
H.R. 4204 (CO-SPONSORSHIP)
Members of the House were asked to co-sponsor legislation introduced April 22, 2004, that
would update and expand federal hate crimes laws to cover serious, violent hate crimes committed
because of real or perceived sexual orientation, gender or disability to cover the gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender community. As of Oct. 1, 2004, the measure had 178 co-sponsors:
Democrats — 168; Republicans — 9; Independents — 1.

5) PERMANENT PARTNERS IMMIGRATION ACT, H.R. 832 (CO-SPONSORSHIP)
Members of the House were asked to co-sponsor legislation introduced Feb. 13, 2003, that would
amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and lawful
permanent residents the same immigration benefi ts legal spouses of U.S. residents enjoy. As of Oct. 1,
2004, the measure had 129 co-sponsors: Democrats — 125; Republicans — 2; Independents — 1.
10
REPRESENTATIVE (Party) SCORE q r s t u v w x

6) EARLY TREATMENT FOR HIV ACT OF 2004, H.R. 3859 (CO-SPONSORSHIP)
Members of the House were asked to co-sponsor legislation introduced Feb. 26, 2004, which
would expand Medicaid to people living with HIV and provide states with the option to cover
low-income HIV-infected individuals. As of Oct. 1, 2004, the measure had 142 co-sponsors:
Democrats — 119; Republicans — 22; Independents — 1.

7) EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT, H.R. 3285 (CO-SPONSORSHIP)
Members of the House were asked to co-sponsor legislation introduced Oct. 8, 2003, that would
prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. As of Oct. 1, 2004,
H.R. 3285 had 180 co-sponsors: Democrats — 165; Republicans — 14; Independents — 1.

8) POLICY PLEDGE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION
Th is Congress, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition worked
together and asked every representative to adopt, voluntarily, a written policy for their own offi ces
indicating that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are not factors in their employment
decisions. As of Oct. 1, 2004, 150 representatives in the 108th Congress have adopted
this policy: Democrats — 131; Republicans — 18; Independents — 1.

SIGNIFICANT CO-SPONSORSHIPS NOTED BUT NOT SCORED

1) – DENOTES CO-SPONSORSHIP OF DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP BENEFITS AND OBLIGATIONS
ACT OF 2003, H.R. 2426
Th is bill would provide domestic partners of federal employees the same benefi ts available to and
obligations accorded upon spouses of federal employees. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., introduced
this bill to the House on June 11, 2003. As of Oct. 1, 2004, 98 members of the House have cosponsored
this piece of legislation: Democrats — 97; Republicans — 0; Independents — 1.

2) – DENOTES CO-SPONSORSHIP OF TAX EQUITY FOR HEALTH PLAN BENEFICIARIES ACT
OF 2003, H.R. 935
Under the current tax code, employees are taxed on the benefi ts provided to their domestic partners
while benefi ts for spouses are tax free. On Feb. 26, 2003, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., introduced
a bill that would amend the current tax code, allowing employees to exclude from their
gross income the costs of employee-provided health coverage provided to other eligible designated
benefi ciaries, in addition to spouses and dependent children. Th ere were 84 co-sponsors to this
bill as of Oct. 1, 2004: Democrats — 79; Republicans — 4; Independents — 1.

3) – DENOTES CO-SPONSORSHIP OF FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE INCLUSION ACT, H.R. 1430
Current law does not permit employees covered by the Family Medical Leave Inclusion Act to
take appr

oved leave to care for domestic partners. Th is legislation, introduced by Rep. Carolyn B.
Maloney, D-N.Y., on March 25, 2003, amends the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 to permit
leave to care for domestic partners, among others, if they have a serious health condition. Th is
bill has been co-sponsored by 93 members of the House as of Oct. 1, 2004: Democrats — 91;
Republicans — 1; Independents — 1.

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