Question #1: After the recent Supreme Court ruling, LGBT+ Americans are temporarily safe from most workplace discrimination. However, this ruling did not preclude future attacks, nor does is redress the damage that discrimination has taken on our community.
How would you protect LGBT+ workers’ rights and fight for further justice for LGBT+ Americans in the workplace?
I am also an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.
I am one of 19 original cosponsors of the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act. BE HEARD
is likely the most comprehensive anti-discrimination and harassment legislation ever
introduced, and could amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make
discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy,
childbrith, a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, or a sex stereotype an unlawful employment practice.
Beyond workplace discrimination, I’ve led legislative efforts to repeal the transgender military ban, to prohibit ‘gay and trans panic’ defenses, and to recognize a national Transgender Day of Remembrance. I led efforts in Washington to defend non-discrimination protections for transgender students and to ensure access to health care for every transgender American. I fought on the frontlines of Massachusetts’ efforts to expand transgender non-discrimination protections to public spaces, and I’m committed to continuing this fight across the country.
Question #2: Recent advances in the strategy for HIV prevention have shown that high-risk populations can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 92-99% by taking one pill a day. Known as PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), Truvada is also one of the medications used to keep the virus under control in people already living with HIV. The majority of people on PrEP are white men (73%), while African American men account for 44% of new HIV infections.
What role do you think Congress and the Federal Government should play in increasing access to and the affordability, awareness and use of this potentially lifesaving treatment, especially among people of color who have been particularly hard hit by this disease and the lack of resources flowing to their communities to address it?
I know that all students regardless of their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
deserve comprehensive sex education that is accurate, age-appropriate, and inclusive.
We need to ensure that federal funding for sex education is responsive to the needs of all students, supports positive sexual health outcomes, and reflects the experiences of LGBTQ youth.
I have repeatedly supported funding for programs that promote comprehensive sex
education, reject stigmatization, and empower youth to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions.
Question #3: COVID-19 has had a disparate effect on communities across the Commonwealth, based on environmental impacts, access to healthcare and racism. This has been felt keenly in Dorchester.
How would you direct Congress and the Federal Government to address COVID-19’s disparate impacts on low-income, environmental justice and communities of color? How would you address this given increasing vaccine hesitancy and other developments that could exacerbate this reality?
Providing Direct Relief to Families
I introduced the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, legislation that provides a
monthly $2,000 check to those struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19
pandemic. As rent comes due and bills continue to pile up, Americans desperately
need assistance to financially survive this crisis. The legislation would provide a monthly $2,000 check to every individual with an income below $120,000 — regardless of immigration status — throughout and for three months following the coronavirus pandemic.
Aid to Small Business
As a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I have worked with my colleagues to provide small business relief. Small businesses across the country, especially those in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry, are being impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. In an effort to get support to some of the state’s smallest minority-owned businesses, I introduced legislation with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-I’ll.) to dedicate tens of millions in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to support more small businesses of color and provide technical assistance for those working to access the program. In the interim relief package, I secured $60 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funding for women- and minority-owned businesses. I am also a co-sponsor of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s legislation to provide federal grants to micro businesses.
I have also worked with colleagues to develop a package of proposals that will provide
aid to business owners, including recovery grants, debt relief, loan programs, and more.
Halting Deportations & Closing Immigration Courts
I was the first Senator to call on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to
immediately halt needless deportations and release from detention immigrants who
pose no safety threat as the coronavirus pandemic evolves. U.S. immigration detention centers have been called a “public health disaster waiting to happen,” due to overcrowding conditions and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) history of medical neglect.
Protection for Gig Economy Workers
Gig workers are some of the most valuable employees during this crisis, but also the
most vulnerable. That’s why I successfully fought for unemployment insurance for gig
workers and independent contractors in the CARES Act. I called on Senate leadership
to provide economic support for every impacted worker: 1) paid leave provisions which specifically apply to gig workers; 2) broadened paid leave provisions to include
employees who are feeling sick; and 3) expanded paid leave to include workers at
companies of more than 500 employees. Watch Shannon Liss-Riordan and I discuss
the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the gig worker economy.
Closing the Digital Divide
Many students across the Commonwealth lack access to the internet at home. To
combat the potential for a longstanding “homework gap” created by COVID-19, I led
more than a dozen of his colleagues to call on the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) to temporarily allow schools to utilize E-Rate program funding to
provide Wi-Fi access to students who lack internet at home. The Senator also joined
with fellow lawmakers and urged leadership in both chambers of Congress to demand
$4 billion in E-Rate funding to be included in the next coronavirus relief package so
students can continue to learn from home during this time.
COVID-19 exposed the fundamental flaws of a health care system that ties coverage to employment. I’ve fought to address this flaw, working with Progressive Caucus Chair Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to introduce the Medicare Crisis Program Act, which would guarantee access to care for unemployed people. I’ve fought for an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which would protect the health and safety of frontline caregivers and essential workers, including guaranteed safety precautions, robust compensation, universal paid sick leave and family and medical leave, health care security, and support for child care. I voted for $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers and authored the COVID-19 Worker Benefits Program, which would cover economic losses for workers and provide death benefits for the families of workers who have died. And most recently, I wrote a letter to the Trump Administration demanding a vaccine development and distribution strategy that ensures equity for the most vulnerable communities, particularly low-income and communities of color.
COVID-19 is not just a health crisis; it’s an environmental justice crisis, too. Environmental justice communities subject to decades of dangerous environmental pollution suffer worse health outcomes, making them more susceptible to this virus. That’s why I called for the appointment of an environmental justice expert to the Administration’s COVID-19 Task Force, as well as an immediate increase in funding for the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice to address the higher rates of infection in EJ communities across Massachusetts, whose exposure to pollution and toxic infrastructure put them at greater risk.
I’m committed to seeing through a long-term recovery that addresses our acute health care crisis and ensures that our country is never caught unprepared for future health crises again. I introduced a Jobs & Justice Initiative that I plan to fight for in the Senate — a national economic mobilization and federal hiring program that intentionally levels structural inequities throughout our economy, our health care system, and our entire government that systemically disadvantage communities of color.
Question #4: Massachusetts has a significantly higher fatal opioid overdose rate as compared to the national average.
Talk about the opioid epidemic as it relates to Boston’s residents/visitors and what steps you would take in Congress to address the problem.
Back in Washington, I recently unveiled a plan to achieve universal behavioral health care, including deep reforms to and historic investments in substance use disorder treatment. I’ve advocated for increased funding for community health centers, substance use treatment centers, and safe injection sites, and I’ve authored legislation increasing reimbursement rates for addiction treatment. I’ve fought to address inequities in addiction treatment by ensuring that treatment options are not denied to patients suffering from substance use disorders. And I’ve co-sponsored the CARE Act, legislation to invest $100 billion in federal funding over the next ten years in states and communities to support the whole continuum of care — from early intervention for those at risk for addiction, to harm reduction for those struggling with addiction, to long-term support services for those in recovery. This legislation would also ensure access to mental health services and help provide critical wraparound services, like housing support and medical transportation, for those who need them. In Massachusetts, I worked with the local community to establish Bristol County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking area, securing critical federal resources to help combat the opioid epidemic.
Question #5: LGBT+ communities have long suffered from disproportionately negative health outcomes, especially among people of color and trans individuals.
How would your plans for healthcare reform directly improve health outcomes in LGBT+ and communities of color?
As an original co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act of 2017, I
have fought to create a federal single-payer health care system to provide
comprehensive health insurance to every American.
Long before COVID-19 exposed deep inequities in our health care system, I’ve been leading efforts in Congress to root out the racism, discrimination, and prejudice that is woven throughout our health care system. I’m the author of the Do No Harm Act, which would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to ensure that religious freedom cannot be used to justify denying civil rights, including for LGBTQI+ patients seeking access to health care. I’ve tirelessly fought discrimination against transgender patients seeking care, patients with pre-existing conditions, and patients seeking access to mental health and addiction care. As a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, I’ve fought against black maternal mortality and I’ve authored the Moms MATTER Act to expand access to behavioral health care for new moms, specifically moms of color.
As we work to transition to a single-payer system, I’m fighting to make health care more affordable, accessible, and equitable immediately — in particular to take on the disparate health outcomes in communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community. I advocate for increased funding to community health centers, substance use treatment centers, and to expand Medicaid coverage, all of which provide crucial care to communities with disproportionately negative health outcomes, including communities of color and the trans community. I’ve passed legislation to close loopholes exploited by pharmaceutical companies at the expense of patients; I’ve introduced legislation to guarantee universal mental health care; and I’ve led efforts to enhance transparency in behavioral health coverage.
Question #6: The issues of gentrification, mass tenant evictions, and lack of rent control or availability of affordable housing have been crippling to certain portions of Boston’s community. Constraints on the housing supply have continued to drive up rental costs, often pricing families out of the city while housing lotteries cannot keep up with housing needs.
What role do you see for the Congress and the Federal Government in supporting solutions to these challenges that affect some of the most vulnerable members of our community?
We must protect our existing rental assistance programs. I have and will continue to
support funding for the Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance Programs.
I also know we must approach our housing crisis with bold solutions. I support Elizabeth Warren’s plan to invest $500 billion in affordable housing. The plan will leverage federal investments to build up to 3.2 million new housing units for lower-income and middle-class families, reduce rental costs by 10% over the next ten years, and incentivize localities to increase their housing supply, all while creating 1.5 million new jobs.
We must also oppose Trump’s attempts to cut affordable housing programs. I voted
against the confirmation of Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) and fought against Trump’s proposed budget that would cut HUD’s funding by $8.6 billion, 16.4% less than it was funded this year. Trump’s budget would completely eliminate crucial programs, like CDBG funding and the HOME Investment Partnerships, which are critical for cities that rely on this funding to grow affordable housing stock.
But even a moratorium does not cancel missed rent or mortgage payments — and we cannot risk displacement for thousands of vulnerable families across our
Commonwealth the minute the moratorium expires. That is why I voted for $100 billion in emergency rental assistance, as well as a $75 billion relief fund for homeowners, in the HEROES Act that passed the House. I called on Congressional leadership to provide $2.5 billion in funding for Legal Services Corporation and civil legal aid organizations in the next COVID-19 emergency funding package, in order to ensure assistance to counsel for low-income families at risk of eviction. I’m also proud to have led my colleagues in introducing the most progressive expansions of legal counsel in history — a Civil Gideon, to make sure no one is denied counsel in our justice system, including in eviction cases. I will fight to pass this expansion and ensure that we protect vulnerable families in Boston and across Massachusetts from displacement.
I’m proud to co-sponsor legislation, the American Housing and Mobility Act, which directly takes on historic racial discrimination and segregation in our housing system and will help reduce and prevent housing segregation in communities like Boston. The bill offers down payment assistance grants to first-time homebuyers who live in formerly redlined and segregated neighborhoods, promotes mobility by strengthening anti-discrimination laws and improving the housing voucher program, holds financial institutions accountable for providing access to credit for all Americans, and supports families whose housing wealth was destroyed by the financial crisis. It also controls the cost of renting or buying a home by infusing federal funds into our housing supply, so that we can build millions of new housing units, bring down costs, and create millions of new jobs. Beyond this legislation, we also must address state and local zoning rules that drive up construction costs and exacerbate segregation. Finally, I’ve fought to prohibit all forms of housing discrimination by strengthening and fully enforcing our fair housing laws. I will be proud to champion these reforms in the Senate.
Question #7: Racism is a bedrock of our Nation’s history and culture and basis for our governing and economic systems.
What actions would you take in Congress to combat racism and seek justice for black, indigenous and other people of color? What actions have you, or will you, take in your personal life?
I co sponsored Senator Booker’s Commission to Study and Develop Reparation
Proposals for African-Americans Act, the only reparations bill in the Senate, which
establishes a commission to make recommendations of reparations proposals. It is
impossible to craft an American future that is fair and just without openly acknowledging and confronting the generational inequalities caused by slavery and a history of systemic racism in the United States. Reparations are the first step acknowledging the wrongs and repairing the harm done to African Americans.
African Americans face vast inequalities when it comes to health outcomes and health
care access, compared to white Americans. I believe that healthcare is a human right,
which is why he is a proud original co-sponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2017, which would ensure that every American has comprehensive health insurance.
Black and Native women are approximately three times more likely to die from
pregnancy-related issues than white women, in large part due to the despicable racial
bias endemic in the U.S. healthcare system. That is unconscionable, and I am fighting
tooth and nail to end this dangerous manifestation of racial injustice and provide quality health care for all. That is why I supported the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act (MOMMAS) and the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies Act (Maternal CARE Act), which would provide grants for implicit bias training for obstetricians and gynecologists and for pregnancy medical homes.
Families across the United States face a childcare crisis, but African American families
are especially hard hit by the rising cost of child care and limited options for working
families. Today, three in four African American children under age 6 have all residential parents in the workforce. That’s why I support Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, which would provide free or affordable, high-quality child care and early learning options to every American. I also support Senator Patty Murray’s Child Care for Working Families Act, which would provide free childcare to families under 75 percent of the state median income, and ensure no family under 150 percent of the state median income pays more than seven percent of their income on child care.
In restructuring our economy to put workers and families first, it’s absolutely crucial that we level out wage and wealth disparities by race. I’m fighting for policies to wipe out the vast majority of existing student debt, which will help students of color who are disproportionately burdened and help close the persistent racial wealth gap. I’ve co-sponsored legislation to address racial discrimination in housing, by giving grants to first-time homebuyers who live in formerly redlined and segregated neighborhoods. I’ve advocated for increasing the portion of federal contracts reserved for minority-owned small businesses and ensuring that federal investments in communities of color are designed to build wealth, create jobs, and support locally-owned businesses. In health care, I’ll continue to prioritize racial disparities in access to coverage and care, particularly when it comes to maternal health and mortality. And I’ll fight to completely overhaul our criminal justice system to end mass incarceration, police brutality, and racial discrimination and rebuild a better system that actually keeps our communities safe and whole.
To seek justice for Indigenous communities, I’ll advocate for measures to protect and expand their civil rights, including fighting land dispossession, structural racism, concentrated poverty, violence, and public health epidemics, while also championing the sovereign rights of Native nations.
In my personal life, I recognize that I was born into a tremendous amount of privilege. I’m committed to using that privilege to do good, to promote anti-racism, and to amplify the BIPOC voices that have for too long been looked over, locked out, and left behind. Outside of my work in Congress, I’ve spent my entire career working to promote racial justice — from fighting to protect families from eviction in the Boston Housing Courts to running a rights empowerment workshop for at-risk youth in Boston Public Schools. I also recognize that my education — on issues of racism, representation, and identity — is a lifelong process. I’ll continue to listen, to learn, and to fight every day to build a better, more equitable, anti-racist society.
Question #8: What reforms for our police and incarceration system would you pursue in Congress? Specifically, what is your opinion on ‘defunding’ the police?
This legislation abolishes qualified immunity, a judge-made doctrine that protects law
enforcement officers from being sued in their personal capacity and being held
personally liable for their abuses. For decades, law enforcement has relied on qualified immunity to shield officers from accountability for instances of police brutality and excessive force. I know that it is time to hold our law enforcement accountable.
We have to start by recognizing the failures and consequences of the War on Drugs, particularly the devastating effects on communities of color — that’s why I’m pushing for legislation to legalize marijuana and expunge past criminal records. At the same time, we have to decriminalize poverty, mental illness, and homelessness. I support ending cash bail, strengthening public defender services, and expanding access to legal counsel, because we shouldn’t detain people based on a lack of financial resources alone. We need to reform our sentencing policies, including a dramatic reduction in the use of mandatory minimums to ensure judicial discretion. We need to fight for more humane conditions in prisons, banning private and for-profit prisons and charging for essential services like phone calls, while ensuring that prison conditions actually facilitate the goal of rehabilitation. And we need to improve access to crucial services that help formerly incarcerated people re-enter society after serving their time, including public housing, employment, transportation, education, and voting rights.
There is absolutely no question that we have to fundamentally reform the way we police in this country — and that includes how we fund law enforcement. I believe we need to divert overinvestments in policing toward community empowerment initiatives, like affordable housing, job training, education, mental health counseling, substance use treatment, and other community-led programs. I also support legislation to drastically reform policing practices, including banning chokeholds, ending qualified immunity, lowering the standard of proof in civil rights investigations into police misconduct, and independent investigations into police harassment, brutality, or killings.
Question #9: What actions would you take in Congress to combat gun violence?
I am committed to ensuring the safety and security of our family, friends, and neighbors in Massachusetts, advocating for common sense gun legislation to prevent violence in our communities. I am a fierce advocate for universal background checks, banning assault weapons, making gun trafficking a federal crime, prohibiting high capacity ammunition magazines, and closing the loopholes surrounding the creation of undetectable, plastic guns.
In December, I secured $25 million in CDC funding to go toward gun violence research. This is an important first step in helping us address an epidemic that takes 100 lives every single day.
Massachusetts has one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation, and some of the
most comprehensive gun licensing laws in the country. With that in mind, I introduced
the Making America Safe and Secure (MASS) Act, legislation that would incentivize
states to adopt gun-licensing standards similar to those proven effective in
In 1994, I identified a deadly loophole enabling cheap Chinese semi-automatic assault
weapons to flood into the United States. I urged President Clinton to place an
emergency moratorium on the importation of these military style assault weapons from China, including the SKS, MAK-90 and other similar weapons.
I also recognize the threat of 3D technology when it comes to firearm manufacturing.
That’s why he introduced legislation to prohibit the online distribution of blueprints and instructions that allow for the three dimensional printing of firearms. The production of plastic 3D guns and the increasing availability of 3D printers means that unlicensed individuals, including domestic abusers, have the ability to manufacture their own weapons.
I am committed to fighting for comprehensive gun legislation in the United States
Senate so that no child has to walk the halls of their school and fear for their life.
I advocate for common-send reforms to reduce gun violence, supported by a majority of Americans. That includes raising the standards for responsible gun ownership through robust background checks, a national licensing system, raising the age limit for gun purchases to 21, and closing the gun show loophole. I’ve fought to hold gun manufacturers and distributors accountable for gun violence, standing up in Congress against gun lobby efforts to limit their liability. In order to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands, I’ve introduced legislation to encourage states to adopt strict licensing requirements for both gun dealers and owners.
I support banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, because weapons of war have no place on our streets. I’ve advocated in Congress for investments in gun violence research, suicide prevention efforts, and mental health programs to help those who need them. I’m a vocal proponent of Red Flag laws that disarm gun owners who pose a threat to themselves or others, as well as initiatives to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and those convicted of hate crimes.
Question #10: Women currently make around 82 cents for every dollar a man makes, with women of color making significantly less than that.
What actions would you take in Congress to close the gender wage gap and seek gender equity and justice?
We have to guarantee that women are being paid the same wage for the same work.
We can no longer abide by a system where a black woman makes 63 cents to a white
man’s dollar and where Latinas make 53 cents to a white man’s dollar. If we closed the
gender pay gap, we would cut poverty amongst working women and their families by
more than half and add $513 billion to our national economy. I am a co-sponsor of the
Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and supports the Paycheck Fairness Act to eliminate the
gender pay gap and end workplace discrimination.
I will continue to fight for gender equality on the floor of the Senate and stand up to the conservative interests who are looking to take us back in time.
Beyond addressing pay disparity alone, I’m committed to fighting the economic injustices that disproportionately affect women trying to advance their careers. I’m fighting for paid family leave and universal child care, two policies that would lift the burden of disparate caregiving expectations women face in our society, allowing all families to make their own decisions about how to meet their family and child care needs.