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?
Once elected, I will work to ensure that we legislate protections for the LGBTQ community in employment and healthcare. This would require amending the Civil Rights Act to explicitly include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, we must ensure that existing healthcare law includes explicit protections for the LGBTQ community.
We must also remember the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which has yet to be ratified. Pushing for ratification of the amendment will expand protections on the basis of gender, including gender identity.
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 have previously published on the disparities that exist in PrEP prescriptions. There are multiple factors that result in decreased prescriptions in Black and Latinx communities at risk. First, folks in the Black and Latinx LGBTQ community are less likely to have health insurance. These disparities in access can be addressed through truly universalizing access to insurance.
Second, the cost of PrEP can be prohibitive to many in the LGBTQ community. Truvada costs $12,000 annually, and there are additional costs related to lab visits, physician visits, and testing. Even for those with insurance, these costs can make PrEP care too expensive because of co-payments and co-insurance.
Finally, there is the issue of stigma. Black and Latinx gay and bisexual men are often distrustful of the medical community because of historic stigmatization. This distrust can manifest as withholding information about sexual orientation or HIV risk, and can often result in providers not offering or prescribing PrEP for those at increased risk.
The Federal government has an important role in addressing these disparities. By moving our country to a single-payer system, we can address healthcare access concerns, create a system that allows for negotiation of drug pricing and provision of care without co-payments or co-insurance, and build up healthcare in communities of color to address stigma and distrust of the system.
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?
This work requires us to think critically about our interventions. How does each piece of legislation address equity? How do we break down stigma with every step forward? How do we ensure that we emerge from the pandemic with a system that is better and more just?
I have worked tirelessly in the hospital to decrease stigma and to welcome people in to my clinical practice. This same work is necessary in Washington. We need to make sure that Black and Brown communities are heard in our recovery efforts. Their voices should drive our decisions and should be include in our recovery. This is the best way to make sure that these communities take part in our efforts and allow us to address vaccine hesitancy and medical distrust.
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.
In 2002, shortly after arriving in Congress, I filed legislation to ban OxyContin and co-founded the Congressional Prescription Drug Caucus along with Rep. Hal Rogers (R KY). Over the last two decades, we’ve witnessed an exponential increase in opioid-related overdoses, fatalities, and people in need of treatment related to the use of prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl. Last year, our state reported more than 2,200 fatal drug overdoses and we’ve already reported nearly 500 opioid overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2020. Moreover, as recently reported by Attorney General Maura Healey and other state attorneys general, this epidemic has already cost more than $630 billion since 2007 – a number that is expected to increase to more than $2 trillion over the next 20 years. Our public health experts agree that the social isolation, unemployment, anxiety, and depression associated with the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the opioid crisis. We need to act now and dedicate robust and sustained funding so that our communities can address this national public health emergency. I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 2569, the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE)Act – introduced by our late Chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. This bill provides $10 billion annually over ten years for state and local communities to combat the opioid crisis and includes funding for public health surveillance, biomedical research, health professional training, and expanded treatment, recovery, and harm reduction services. We must also ensure that the Federal Government has a meaningful and comprehensive strategy in place to address the opioid crisis. As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which has jurisdiction over the Office of National Drug Control Policy, we are conducting regular oversight of the Trump Administration in this area – including its failure to issue the annual strategy required by law in 2017 and 2018 and its release of a drug control strategy in 2019 that failed to comply with numerous congressional mandates.
Local leaders and families have sown the power of organizing and evidence-based harm reduction strategies to prevent fatal overdoses. They deserve a champion in Congress who will fight with them.
In Congress, I will work with local leaders to advocate for meaningful investment in evidence-based harm reduction, such as needle exchange programs, safe consumption sites (also known as overdose prevention sites). They prevent overdoses, provide resources for substance use treatment, and can help reduce the infectious complications of injection drug use. I will also fight for federal investment in substance use counseling and treatment, and strategies to destigmatize substance use.
We also need to recognize that opioids are not the only substance of concern. Here in Massachusetts (and across the country) we are seeing increasing use of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, both of which result in infectious complications and deaths. There are limited harm reduction strategies to address stimulant use and it is time for the Federal government to invest in the research needed.
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?
I have demanded that the Administration rescind these discriminatory proposals, which only serve to further target vulnerable populations and negatively impact healthcare outcomes in these communities. In the case of the refusal of care rule, I have signed a congressional amicus brief challenging the rule in cases before the 9th Circuit and 2nd Circuit. In the meantime we must work to fix the ACA and ensure that it is indeed affordable and provides quality healthcare coverage. I strongly support the implementation of a robust public health insurance option – a mechanism that was included in the House-passed version of the ACA that I strongly supported and which would pro-mote competition in the insurance marketplace, bring down prices from healthcare providers and hospitals, and promote expanded, affordable healthcare.
I will bring the values that guided the Transgender Health Program — equity, inclusion, intersectionality, and respect for all — with me to Congress. Any health care reforms I work on will specifically consider the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other marginalized groups. In the process of building the Transgender Health Program it was essential that our work included communities of color. What we created is a safe space for everyone. And, our work has made sure that the Black and Latinx transgender community a space that lifts them up.
The Federal government must do the same – we must intentionally and explicitly address race, gender identity, and sexual orientation in our policy decisions. It is not enough to expand healthcare access for the LGBTQ. We must also make sure that we address the structural racism that exists in healthcare. This is best addressed through a single-payer healthcare system.
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?
I support the repeal of the Faircloth Amendment (current Federal law that bans HUD from funding the construction or operation of new public housing units beyond the total that existed in 1999). Since 1999, the federal government has been fighting the housing crisis with one hand tied behind its back. Our first housing priority should be to create enough housing for our homeless and extremely low income populations. This will take significant public investment, and can only be achieved if HUD is permitted to construct new units without demolishing old ones.
I will also support actions to end exclusionary zoning practices. Exclusionary zoning not only contributes to the housing shortage and affordability crisis that many cities are facing, but is also a barrier to creating environmentally sustainable cities and towns. To address the twin challenges of the housing shortage and the threat of climate change, we should prioritize building densely – exclusionary zoning is a barrier to this goal.
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?
My campaign team, including my kitchen cabinet, represents a diversity of gender, ethnicity, and expertise. As a white cisgender man, I know how important it is to include people who have a different experience than my own, and that we can always be doing more to include diverse perspectives. Throughout this campaign, we prioritized hiring people of color.
I will work closely with community partners and local leaders to create a healthcare system, economic system, and criminal legal system that affirm people of color by placing equity at the center of every piece of legislation.
Racial inequities permeate every aspect of American life, so with every political action we must consider how it will affect Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. Certain highly racialized issues, like immigration and criminal justice reform, require immediate attention to prevent marginalized people from experiencing further harm. But, we cannot forget that racism exists in all aspects of our society and we must make sure that every Federal policy explicitly and intentionally addresses racism.
Question #8: What reforms for our police and incarceration system would you pursue in Congress? Specifically, what is your opinion on ‘defunding’ the police?
It is important for me to be clear that while I have voted to support all of the changes listed above which are designed to re-imagine and reform the way we enforce the law in this Country, including changing the police training academy protocols from a ‘warrior’ mindset to a ‘guardian’ model and holding those officers accountable who violate the law, I believe that the vast majority of police officers are good and decent men and women who take on an enormous responsibility. The police are asked to to protect and serve the public. They are asked to keep us safe in our homes and to respond when the vulnerable in our society are preyed upon. We need to do better at this but I do not support defunding the police department.
On the Committee on Oversight and Reform, we are also continuing to examine criminal justice reform and efforts to reduce recidivism – an extended investigation that was started by our late Chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray.
In Congress, I will work urgently to address police brutality by passing the Resolution to Condemn Police Brutality, Racial Profiling, and the Excessive Use of Force; the Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act; the Stop Militarizing Our Law Enforcement Act; and the Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act. Additionally, I will act to end qualified immunity and civil asset forfeiture. I will also support any actions taken in Congress to end federal contracting with private prisons.
We must work urgently, to end mass incarceration, which destroys families and communities. Important steps to end this crisis include legalizing marijuana at a federal level, repealing mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses, and eliminating cash bail, so that no one is held in jail solely for an inability to pay. Additionally, I support abolishing the death penalty and eliminating life without parole, both of which disproportionately harm people of color.
Our legal system is rife with racial and economic disparities — the system works one way for white people and those with means, and another way entirely for people of color and those experiencing poverty. Given the disastrous effects being incarcerated can have on a person’s life, we must use the prison system as a means to rehabilitate. We should make both mental health counseling and substance use treatment universally available to those who are incarcerated. I also support granting early parole for non-violent people and increasing educational and vocational opportunities to give people the tools they need to truly be successful upon reentry. Ultimately, most people who are incarcerated will rejoin our communities, and we should be giving them the support they need to succeed for both their own well-being and to strengthen communities.
Question #9: What actions would you take in Congress to combat gun violence?
As a proud member of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, I strongly believe that we must take immediate and urgent action to combat gun violence in this country – a public health emergency that kills 36,000 Americans each year at an average of 100 per day.
That is why I voted in favor of H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act – a comprehensive bill to expand current federal background check requirements to also re-quire background checks of sales between private individuals – including at gun shows. I also voted in favor of H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, a bill to give the FBI additional time to conduct background checks by requiring licensed gun dealers to wait up to 20 business days, rather than 3, to hear from the FBI before being allowed to complete the sale. Moreover, I’ve cosponsored several additional bills aimed at prevent-ing gun violence including H.R. 1296, the Assault Weapons Ban; H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act (banning high-capacity magazines); H.R. 674, the Gun Violence Prevention Research Act (authorizing CDC to research gun deaths and safety as a public health issue); H.R. 324, the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act (to repeal federal protections blocking firearm and ammunition manufacturers, dealers and trade groups from most civil lawsuits when a firearm is used unlawfully or in a crime); H.R. 569, the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (protects survivors of dating violence and stalking by closing loopholes that allow abusers and stalkers access to guns); and H.R. 4730, the Advancing Gun Safety Technology Act (would support private-sector commercialization of gun-safety technology by authorizing a $10 million pilot pro-gram).As Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, I also recently started an investigation into the Trump Administration’s recent decision to overturn the longstanding prohibition on the export of silencers and other firearm sound suppressors to foreign countries – an action by the President that could seriously jeopardize the safety of deployed Americans overseas.
I’m proud to have received an “F” rating from the NRA.
Those who survive these injuries or witness this violence are faced with life-long physical and mental health consequences that can be devastating. We must take on gun violence in all its forms – not only the horrific mass shootings that grip the headlines, but the daily violence that disproportionately affects communities of color, both in Boston and around the country, as well as suicide, which while accounting for 60% of all gun-related deaths in the US, is too often ignored. The voices of survivors must be at the center of the work to end this epidemic.
I support many specific policies to end gun violence, including reinstating the federal assault weapons ban, banning high capacity magazine ammunitions, requiring a license to purchase guns, limiting the number of guns which a person can purchase in a month, passing the Violence Against Women Act (with protections for transgender women), and repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
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?
According to the National Women’s Law Center, two essential bills that Congress can pass are the Raise the Wage Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Raise the Wage Act would bring the federal minimum wage up from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2024 and would then be indexed to the inflation rate. This bill addresses the reality that women disproportionately hold jobs which are essential but low paying. The Paycheck Fairness Act would update the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and close existing loopholes which allow employers to underpay women. Both bills have passed the House in prior Congressional sessions but have stalled in the Senate.
If elected, I will fight to reintroduce these bills or introduce similar new legislation in the House. I intend to form alliances both across the aisle and in the Senate to ensure that legislation which is essential for equity and progress does not fail in Congress.