The following is from HRC’s Colorado Steering Committee political co-chair, Aydrian Richardson:
On September 8th, three volunteers from the Human Rights Campaign had the privilege to personally meet Senator Mark Udall and discuss bills that are moving through Congress, and pieces of legislation that are anticipated to reach Congress this year or next. Attending alongside the senator was Alan Salazar, the senator’s senior political and policy adviser.
At the heart of discussions was the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that forces America’s service members to lie about who they are, and discharges able-bodied members of our Armed Forces. Senator Udall expressed his true sentiment in taking the lead of repeal when he stated that it was an easy thing to take the lead on because it is simply the right thing to do. As he put it, why discharge a man or woman who willingly gives themselves up to the possibility of dying for their country.
One area of concern which Senator Udall is currently struggling with is, “What are we going to say to the last person dishonorably discharged after we’ve announced plans to repeal DADT?” The groundwork has been laid for repeal, but that does not halt discharges from continuing, which greatly troubles the senator. The urgency is great, as expressed by Senator Udall, which is why it is at the top of his list for legislation to bring to the Senate floor for a vote now that has Congress returned from recess.
In addition to the repeal of DADT, we discussed passage of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Senator Udall promised to vote in favor of ENDA when it comes to the Senate for a vote. Sandy Hickerson, a transgender woman present, expressed the need for the bill to be inclusive, which the Senator understood and promised to push for.
In addition to these upcoming pieces of legislation that will be impacting the LGBT community, we also discussed the need for national anti-bullying laws to be passed and implemented immediately in our public school system. I took the time to bring up the bill that Colorado Representative Jared Polis is moving through the lower chamber of Congress; The Student Non-Discrimination Act. Ray Rodriguez shared the struggles of an elementary-aged child in Longmont that is transgender. He shared about the harassment that the little girl is dealing with from both classmates and teachers, and the lack of education and understanding surrounding these issues in schools. Senator Udall was deeply troubled from hearing about this situation and promised to work with Congressman Polis in advancing LGBT protections in public schools.
On behalf of the three HRC volunteers that attended the meeting, I would like to express appreciation to Senator Mark Udall and senior political and policy advisor Alan Salazar for providing us the forum to share our concerns and hopes for the LGBT community with them. I would also like to thank them for talking with us well beyond the time allotted, and for taking such interest in a cause which is not easy to stand up and be a leader on. We look forward to working with you both several more times for many more years.