Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Than Just A Vice Chair - By Mark R. Kerr

On Wednesday, June 4, a press conference was held on Capital Hill to announce the formation of the Congressional LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Equality Caucus.

Representative Barney Frank, D-MA and Representative Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, stated the mission of this new Congressional Caucus is: achieving the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, eliminating hate-motivated violence, and improving the health and well being for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in U.S. domestic policies and in the nation’s foreign policy to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people in all parts of the world.

Both Representative Frank and Baldwin will serve as the Caucus’ co-chairs and one of the Caucus’ vice-chairs will be Representative Raul Grijalva, from Arizona’s Congressional District 7.

On issues of concern to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, Representative Raul Grijalva has been more than “just a vice-chair.”

During his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, beginning in 2003, Grijalva has:

Cosponsored legislation to protect the rights of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Americans from discrimination in employment because of whom they are, perceived or otherwise;

Voted against the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, opposing subsequent efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to define “marriage”;

Called for and supported attempts to increase funding for HIV/AIDS programs and research in the federal budget and to end federal dollars going to abstinence only projects;

Cosponsored legislation to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy preventing Gay and Lesbian citizens from serving honestly and openly in the armed services;

Supported efforts to extend benefits to the domestic partners (both same and opposite sex) and their families of federal employees;

Cosponsored legislation that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the same immigration benefits legal spouses of U.S. residents enjoy and,

Voted for and cosponsored legislation to expand the current federal hate crimes’ statutes to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, just to name a few of Grijalva’s highlights of his legislative record.

With his work in Congress, actions and support of many measures on the federal level, the Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBT rights organization has given Raul Grijalva a perfect score of 100%, getting a better rating than former openly Gay Republican Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe.

Grijalva’s work for LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues, concerns and constituents didn’t just start at the federal level, its been a continuation of his long, distinguished record as a public servant, just to name a few of the many examples:

In 2006, Congressman Grijalva and his campaign staff and volunteers got out the vote in Congressional District 7 to help defeat Arizon’s Proposition 107, the proposed state constitutional amendment banning governmental and legal recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships;

Grijalva, from 2002 to the present, has publicly supported the efforts in Arizona to expand the state’s hate crimes statutes to cover misdemeanor offenses;

As a Pima County Supervisor, Grijalva has made sure the County’s budget has included funding for its HIV/AIDS programs and services, as well as included funding for the local AIDS Service Organizations and,

Most importantly, it was through Grijalva’s efforts, then as a Pima County Supervisor in 1997, that Gay and Lesbian committed, loving relationships were recognized when Grijalva brought the proposal to extend medical and dental benefits to the domestic partners and their families of Pima County employees.

Raul Grijalva had to fight in court for a year to the legal challenge filed against the motion made and approved by the Board of Supervisors and was triumphant in 1998.

Arizona Gays and Lesbians owe a huge debt of gratitude to Raul Grijalva for this since it was the first governmental entity in the state to formally recognize such relationships.

So Raul Grijalva is more than just a “vice-chair,” he is a friend, supporter and public official Arizona’s LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities can count on and one that the community must say and give thanks to by helping, through financial contribution, volunteering or otherwise to help his efforts this year during this election campaign.

Grijalva’s campaign office is located 452 S. Stone in Tucson, (520) 629-0050, on the web:

He ask given so much to us its time to return the favor once again.

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