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Maria Cantwell on Civil Rights

Democratic Jr Senator (WA)


Votes against Ashcroft, citing desegregation

Our symbol of Justice is a woman, blindfolded, holding a balance in her hand. I believe that Senator Ashcroft will have a hard time having a blind eye or a balanced hand for the fair and impartial administration of justice.

As Attorney General of Missouri, Senator Ashcroft used the power of his office to fight court orders on desegregation of the St. Louis school system. Although the court of appeals and the Supreme Court repeatedly denied his attempts to thwart the implementation of the desegregation plan, he continued to seek new challenges to the order. The federal district court criticized his legal actions, stating that “the court can draw only one conclusion -- the state has, as a matter of deliberate policy, decided to defy the authority of the court.” And in a later court order, the court characterized Ashcroft’s appeals as “feckless.” I find it disturbing that Ashcroft risked a contempt of court threat from a judge to continue his stubborn opposition to desegregation.

Source: Press Release, “Ashcroft” , Jan 30, 2001

Diversity is a priority

Q: There never has been a person of color or a woman nominated by a US Senator to a federal executive position in Eastern Washington despite numerous opportunities to appoint well qualified diverse persons. How will you make it a priority to include diverse persons in Eastern Washington Federal Office?

A: Well I’m seeking an office in an institution where there are a hundred members and 9 of them are women. So I can tell you I know that it’s a priority to get diversification. As a US Senator, I would work to make sure that we are continuing to promote the names of individuals throughout this community that are of minority status so that we can help to promote them to these kinds of positions. That’s the kind of pledge and dedication I made in my private sector company in trying to hire and promote women and minorities, that’s the way I ran my Congressional Office, that’s the way I run my campaign.

Source: Spokane Rotary Debate , Oct 26, 2000

Voted YES on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

Congressional Summary:
    Amends the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) to add or expand definitions of several terms used in such Act, including :
  1. "culturally specific services" to mean community-based services that offer culturally relevant and linguistically specific services and resources to culturally specific communities;
  2. "personally identifying information" with respect to a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
  3. "underserved populations" as populations that face barriers in accessing and using victim services because of geographic location, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity; and
  4. "youth" to mean a person who is 11 to 24 years old.

Opponent's Argument for voting No (The Week; Huffington Post, and The Atlantic): House Republicans had objected to provisions in the Senate bill that extended VAWA's protections to lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans. For example, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) voted against the VAWA bill because it was a "politically–motivated, constitutionally-dubious Senate version bent on dividing women into categories by race, transgender politics and sexual preference." The objections can be grouped in two broadly ideological areas--that the law is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and that it represents a "feminist" attack on family values. The act's grants have encouraged states to implement "mandatory-arrest" policies, under which police responding to domestic-violence calls are required to make an arrest. These policies were intended to combat the too-common situation in which a victim is intimidated into recanting an abuse accusation. Critics also say VAWA has been subject to waste, fraud, and abuse because of insufficient oversight.

Cantwell says, "Cantwell (D-WA)"

Reference: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; Bill S. 47 ; vote number 13-SV019 on Feb 12, 2013

Voted NO on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration.

The Senate voted on a resolution which would recommend a Constitutional Amendment banning flag desecration (not a vote on the Amendment itself). The resolution states:
  1. the flag of the US is a unique symbol of national unity...
  2. the Bill of Rights should not be amended in a manner that could be interpreted to restrict freedom...
  3. abuse of the flag causes more than pain and distress... and may amount to fighting words...
  4. destruction of the flag of the US can be intended to incite a violent response rather than make a political statement and such conduct is outside the protections afforded by the first amendment to the Constitution.
Reference: Flag Desecration Amendment; Bill S.J.Res.12 ; vote number 2006-189 on Jun 27, 2006

Voted NO on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.

Voting YES implies support for amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. This cloture motion to end debate requires a 3/5th majority. A constitutional amendment requires a 2/3rd majority. The proposed amendment is:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
Reference: Marriage Protection Amendment; Bill S. J. Res. 1 ; vote number 2006-163 on Jun 7, 2006

Voted YES on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.

Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 625; Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. The bill would expand the definition of hate crimes to incorporate acts committed because of a victim's sex, sexual orientation or disability and permit the federal government to help states prosecute hate crimes even if no federally protected action was implicated. If the cloture motion is agreed to, debate will be limited and a vote will occur. If the cloture motion is rejected debate could continue indefinitely and instead the bill is usually set aside. Hence a Yes vote supports the expansion of the definition of hate crimes, and a No vote keeps the existing definition. Three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 members, is required to invoke cloture.
Reference: Bill S.625 ; vote number 2002-147 on Jun 11, 2002

Voted NO on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping.

Motion to table (kill) the amendment that would provide that in order to conduct roving surveillance, the person implementing the order must ascertain that the target of the surveillance is present in the house or is using the phone that has been tapped.
Reference: Bill S1510 ; vote number 2001-300 on Oct 11, 2001

Shift from group preferences to economic empowerment of all.

Cantwell adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Strengthen America’s Common Civic Culture
The more ethnically and culturally diverse America becomes, the harder we must all work to affirm our common civic culture -- the values and democratic institutions we share and that define our national identity as Americans. This means we should resist an “identity politics” that confers rights and entitlements on groups and instead affirm our common rights and responsibilities as citizens. Multiethnic democracy requires fighting discrimination against marginalized groups; empowering the disadvantaged to join the economic, political, and cultural mainstream; and respecting diversity while insisting that what we have in common as Americans is more important than how we differ. One way to encourage an ethic of citizenship and mutual obligation is to promote voluntary national service. If expanded to become available to everyone who wants to participate, national service can help turn the strong impulse toward volunteerism among our young people into a major resource in addressing our social problems. It will also help revive a sense of patriotism and national unity at a time when military service is no longer the common experience of young Americans.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC6 on Aug 1, 2000

Rated 60% by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record.

Cantwell scores 60% by the ACLU on civil rights issues

We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everybody’s rights are imperiled.

Our ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: ACLU website 02n-ACLU on Dec 31, 2002

Increase subsidies for women-owned non-profit business.

Cantwell co-sponsored the Women's Business Center Safeguard Act

Amends the Small Business Act with respect to the women's business centers program to provide Small Business Administration funding authority for nonprofit organizations conducting projects for the benefit of small businesses owned and controlled by women. Increases from 30 to 54 the percentage of appropriated women's business center funds to be used during FY 2004 for sustained women's business center projects.

Source: Bill sponsored by 11 Senators 03-S2266 on Mar 31, 2004

Rated 89% by the HRC, indicating a pro-gay-rights stance.

Cantwell scores 89% by the HRC on gay rights

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 HRC scores as follows:

About the HRC (from their website, www.hrc.org):

The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of more than 700,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

Ever since its founding in 1980, HRC has led the way in promoting fairness for GLBT Americans. HRC is a bipartisan organization that works to advance equality based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity.

Source: HRC website 06n-HRC on Dec 31, 2006

Rated 93% by the NAACP, indicating a pro-affirmative-action stance.

Cantwell scores 93% by the NAACP on affirmative action

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 NAACP scores as follows:

About the NAACP (from their website, www.naacp.org):

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has worked over the years to support and promote our country's civil rights agenda. Since its founding in 1909, the NAACP has worked tirelessly to end racial discrimination while also ensuring the political, social, and economic equality of all people. The Association will continue this mission through its policy initiatives and advocacy programs at the local, state, and national levels. From the ballot box to the classroom, the dedicated workers, organizers, and leaders who forged this great organization and maintain its status as a champion of social justice, fought long and hard to ensure that the voices of African Americans would be heard. For nearly one hundred years, it has been the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that has saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society.

Source: NAACP website 06n-NAACP on Dec 31, 2006

ENDA: prohibit employment discrimination for gays.

Cantwell signed H.R.3017&S.1584

Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by covered entities (employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees). Prohibits preferential treatment or quotas. Allows only disparate treatment claims. Prohibits related retaliation.

    Makes this Act inapplicable to:
  1. religious organizations; and
  2. the relationship between the United States and members of the Armed Forces.
Source: Employment Non-Discrimination Act 09-HR3017 on Jun 24, 2009

Prohibit sexual-identity discrimination at schools.

Cantwell signed Student Non-Discrimination Act

Source: HR.998&S.555 11-S0555 on Mar 10, 2011

Constitutional Amendment for women's equal rights.

Cantwell signed Equal Rights Amendment for men and women

JOINT RESOLUTION: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women. Constitutional Amendment: Prohibits denying or abridging equality of rights under the law by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives: That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of 3/4ths of the several States:
  1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

[Explanatory note from Wikipedia.com and OnTheIssues.org]:

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress, but failed to gain ratification before its June 30, 1982 deadline. This new proposed amendment is identical in wording to the original 1972 proposed amendment. It was proposed in Congress in every session from 1923 through 1970 prior to passing in 1972; and has been re-introduced in Congress in every session since 1982 after its failure at ratification. The current version removes the Congressionally imposed deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, so that if the bill passes Congress, states have no deadline as they did in 1982.

Source: HJR69&SJR21 11-SJR21 on Jun 22, 2011

Endorsed by The Feminist Majority indicating a pro-women's rights stance.

Cantwell is endorsed by by the Feminist Majority on women's rights

The Feminist Majority endorses candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. In addition to the stronger "endorsement," the organization also determines "preferred" candidates in races where they do not endorse. Their mission statement:

"Our mission is to empower feminists, who are the majority, and to win equality for women at the decision-making tables of the state, nation, and the world. The Feminist Majority promotes non-discrimination on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, age, marital status, nation of origin, size or disability. The purpose of Feminist Majority is to promote equality for women and men, non-violence, reproductive health, peace, social justice and economic development and to enhance feminist participation in public policy. Feminist Majority supports workers’ collective bargaining, pay equity, and end of sweatshops. We encourage programs directed at the preservation of the environment."

Source: FeministMajority.org website 12-FemMaj on Oct 31, 2012

Enforce against wage discrimination based on gender.

Cantwell co-sponsored Paycheck Fairness Act

    Congress finds the following:
  1. Women have entered the workforce in record numbers over the past 50 years.
  2. Despite the enactment of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, many women continue to earn significantly lower pay than men for equal work. These pay disparities exist in both the private and governmental sectors. In many instances, the pay disparities can only be due to continued intentional discrimination or the lingering effects of past discrimination.
  3. The existence of such pay disparities depresses the wages of working families who rely on the wages of all members of the family to make ends meet; and undermines women's retirement security.
  4. Artificial barriers to the elimination of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex continue to exist decades after the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. These barriers have resulted because the Equal Pay Act has not worked as Congress originally intended.
  5. The Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have important and unique responsibilities to help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.
  6. The Department of Labor is responsible for investigating and prosecuting equal pay violations, especially systemic violations, and in enforcing all of its mandates.
  7. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the primary enforcement agency for claims made under the Equal Pay Act.
  8. With a stronger commitment [to enforcement], increased information on wage data and more effective remedies, women will be better able to recognize and enforce their rights.
  9. Certain employers have already made great strides in eradicating unfair pay disparities in the workplace and their achievements should be recognized.
Source: S.84&H.R.377 13-S0084 on Jan 23, 2013

Enforce against anti-gay discrimination in public schools.

Cantwell co-sponsored Student Non-Discrimination Act

Congressional Summary: