In recent days, ThinkProgress has identified the most pro- and anti-LGBT members of the U.S. House of Representatives. While in this Congress anti-gay forces have been relatively quiet in the Senate — only Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has proposed an overtly anti-LGBT bill or resolution — Senators in support of equality have proposed sixteen bills pro-LGBT bills since the start of 2011. Eleven Senators have sponsored or co-sponsored at least ten of those measures.
Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), and Patty Murray (D-WA), tied for the honor of most pro-LGBT Senator: they put their names on 13 of the 16 bills each. Akaka, a fourth-term Senator who will retire at the end of 2012, authored the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2012 (a bill to improve tracking of health data for LGBT people and other minority groups). Murray, a fourth-term Senator, spells out on her LGBT issue webpage that “Equal protection under the law is a fundamental right in our country. No one should suffer discrimination because of their race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” And Kerry, now in his fifth term in the Senate, is chief sponsor of the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act of 2011 (which seeks to help at-risk LGBT youth) and the HOME Act of 2011 (which protects LGBT citizens from housing discrimination).
Eight other Senators — seven Democrats and one independent — signed on to at least 10 pro-LGBT proposals, putting them just behind Akaka, Kerry, and Murray. They are:
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a first-term Senator who highlights his commitment “to combating discrimination against Americans based on their sexual orientation or gender identification” on the Civil Rights page of his official website.
- Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), a third-term Senator and the Senate Majority Whip. Durbin is the lead sponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, a proposal to provide same-sex couples with equal access to unpaid leave, and made a video for the “It Gets Better” project.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a first-term Senator who is chief sponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, a proposal to ban discrimination against LGBT families in adoption and foster parenting. She was a leading force behind the 2010 Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal and in the Marriage Equality page on her campaign website notes that “Kirsten believes everyone should be able to marry the person they love and that being part of a family is a basic right.”
- Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), a ninth-term Senator and the Senate President Pro Tempore. Inouye has represented Hawaii in Congress since it achieved statehood in 1959 and during the 2010 Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate noted “I fought alongside gay men during World War II and many of them were killed in combat. Those men were heroes. And once again, heroes will be allowed to defend their country, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
- Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a second-term Senator and lead sponsor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 (which includes immigration rights for same-sex couples). The Civil Rights page of his official website highlights his support for legislation that would end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a first-term Senator and lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2011 (which bans employment discrimination against LGBT workers). On the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties page of his official website, he highlights his work against employment discrimination and notes that “it remains legal in 29 states to fire someone based on sexual orientation, and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.”
- Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a fifth-term Senator and lead sponsor of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act of 2011 (an LGBT-inclusive sex education proposal) and the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2011 (which would combat anti-LGBT bullying in colleges and universities).
- Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), a first-term Senator and an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. When President Obama announced his support for marriage equality in May, Sanders hailed it as a “major milestone.”
In all, 61 Senators have signed onto at least one pro-LGBT bill — every member of the Democratic caucus and eight Republicans. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) were the most pro-equality Republicans, co-sponsoring three bills each.
The pro-LGBT proposals were:
- S.506, the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011
- S.540, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2011
- S.555, the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011
- S.563, the Equal Access to COBRA Act of 2011
- S.598, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011
- S.811, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2011
- S.821, the Uniting American Families Act of 2011
- S.961, the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act of 2011
- S.1258, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011
- S.1283, the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act
- S.1605, the HOME Act of 2011
- S.1770, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act
- S.1782, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act of 2011
- S.1910, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011
- S.1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011
- S.2474, the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2012