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?
Stephen F. Lynch
As a proud member of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, I strongly sup-port congressional action calling on the Supreme Court to protect and extend equal rights under the Constitution and federal law to LGBTQ+ Americans. That is why I signed the Congressional amicus brief in Bostock v. Clayton County detailing that federal civil rights protections must be extended to people facing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Supreme Court agreed. In holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Court’s landmark ruling in Bostock marked an important step in our collective fight for LGBTQ+ equality. However, we still have a lot of work to do. We must ensure that the Trump Administration fully complies with Bostock across the federal government. To this end, I recently signed a bicameral letter to President Trump demanding that he undertake a full review of all regulations, executive orders, and agency policies that concern legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans and make certain that the Administration is in full compliance with the Court’s decision. Moreover, as Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, I urged the Department of Defense to update its policies post-Bostock and immediately eliminate the ban on open transgender military service. I’ve also asked the Department of Justice to terminate any litigation challenging the ban. As an original cosponsor of H.R. 5, the Equality Act, I was proud to vote in favor of this historic civil rights legislation when it passed the House Floor in 2019. We must also make every effort to ensure that this bill to extend federal anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ+ Americans in access to employment, education, credit, federal funding, housing, public accommodations, and other areas is enact-ed into law.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
As a gay man and a physician who cares for the LGBTQ community, I understand the impact of stigma and discrimination on the community. We must celebrate our successes in the Supreme Court, while we continue to fight against hate. Just days before the recent Supreme Court decision granting protections for LGBTQ individuals in employment non-discrimination, the Trump Administration announced their intention to exclude these protections for LGBTQ individuals in healthcare. This whiplash of decisions leaves the community confused, scared, and vulnerable.
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
Congress and the Federal Government serve an essential role in ensuring and expanding access and awareness of affordable PrEP treatment to unserved and underserved communities – particularly communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by HIV infection. As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, I’m proud to participate in our ongoing investigation of skyrocketing prices for HIV prevention medication, including Truvada. We held a hearing with the Chairman and CEO of Gilead Sciences, Inc. to examine why the company is selling Truvada, a drug that was re-searched and approved by the FDA at taxpayer expense, for a marked up price of over $2,000 per month in the U.S. while the generic version is available globally for under $6 a month. Gilead initially sold this drug – a sales driver – for $813 per month when it was launched in 2004. We are also continuing to examine the Trump Administration’s “End-ing the HIV Epidemic” initiative in order to identify and address glaring gaps in its strategy for increasing access to PrEP. While the CDC has estimated that 1.1 million people in the U.S. could have benefited from PrEP in 2015 alone – including 500,000 at-risk African-Americans and 300,000 at-risk Latinos, enhanced access to at-risk populations will only be possible if we continue robust oversight of drug manufacturer pricing and Congress and the Administration engage with companies like Gilead to further facilitate and expand PrEP donations to uninsured populations. I also strongly support H.R. 3815, the PrEP Access and Coverage Act, legislation to establish a federal grant program to provide uninsured patient access to PrEP.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
I work every day with people living with HIV and at risk for HIV. There are too many times that I need to sit in an exam room with a Black gay man and tell him about his positive HIV test. Too many of these men have never heard of PrEP, or have never been comfortable in the healthcare setting. My work, every day, is to break down the stigma that exists and welcome people in to the exam room.
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
The coronavirus pandemic has hit communities of color the hardest and exacerbated disparities stemming from systemic racism and longstanding structural inequities. Ac-cording to the City of Boston’s Health Inequities Task Force, African Americans and Latinx residents currently account for 65% of known COVID-19 cases in Boston and the highest per capita reported infection rates remain in Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, and Mattapan. After Carney Hospital in Dorchester was designated as a COVID- response hospital I immediately visited the Hospital, met with the CEO and nurses, dis-cussed site -specific challenges with the State Health Secretary and supplied thousands of N95 masks and face-Shields. In order to address the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented communities, it is critical that we collect comprehensive community demographic data to identify the full extent of testing and health disparities. While efforts undertaken by the Administration in this area have been completely insufficient, I’m proud to support the HEROES Act relief bill passed by the House – legislation that requires the Federal Government to regularly re-port comprehensive community demographic data to Congress regarding coronavirus infections and health disparities. Moreover, as we continue to witness advancements in the area of vaccine development, we must develop a national vaccine strategy that is based on robust outreach to at-risk communities that have been historically marginalized from the healthcare system. In particular, we need to enhance vaccine education and awareness in underrepresented communities, ensure diversity in clinical trials, and develop vaccine distribution plans in coordination with community advocacy organizations and the private sector that reflect the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color. I support the work of the independent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in this area. At the same time, we must take immediate steps in other areas to mitigate the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities that are already enduring health disparities and environmental inequality. I strongly support H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, because it dedicates $1.5 trillion to-wards modernizing our nation’s transportation systems and public infrastructure with a focus on environmental justice. It includes the text of my legislation, the Green Buses for Every Community Act, which requires that we provide at least 10% of the bill’s $1.7 billion in funding for zero-emission bus grants to low-income communities that were al-ready experiencing devastating health disparities due to air pollution pre-pandemic.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
COVID-19 unveiled disparities that have existed in our healthcare system for decades. It is not just a coincidence that communities of color and communities with a disproportionate burden of pollution are suffering the highest rates of COVID-19. I have spent my career working with vulnerable populations and doing the work that is necessary to make sure those that we care for those that are marginalized. Early in the pandemic, I created a plan to address how vulnerable populations – those experiencing homelessness, incarcerated people, the elderly, and people living in rural areas – will be affected by the coronavirus.
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.
Stephen F. Lynch
I’ve been working on this issue for a long time now. And not just in Congress. In the late 90’s when OxyContin first emerged as a public health risk, it was tied to a suicide cluster of boys and young men that occurred in South Boston. At that time we had no residential drug rehab facilities for adolescents. In response, and with the generous support of the Gavin Foundation, the State Dept. of Public Health, the CDC, the Boston Building Trades, NE Medical Center (Tufts), the South Boston Community Health Center and Lee Kennedy Construction, I helped to establish the Cushing House for Boys, a 24 bed adolescent residential recovery home in South Boston. A short time later we expanded to create 20 beds for girls.
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.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
The opioid epidemic and substance continue through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not only an epidemic of substance use, but an epidemic of missed opportunities, of insufficient resources, and of stigma and discrimination that prevent those affected by substance use from fully living their lives.
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
We must first protect the Affordable Care Act – landmark healthcare legislation that has expanded coverage and provided significant healthcare benefits to communities of color and LGBTQ+ Americans. That is why I have opposed more than 60 attempts by Republicans in the House to repeal or otherwise weaken the ACA and why I’m a lead-ing cosponsor of a resolution condemning the Trump Administration’s attacks on the ACA during the coronavirus public health emergency. During President Trump’s tenure, he has continued to implement regulations and take executive actions to undermine the ACA and strip critical healthcare protections for LGBTQ+ Americans and communities of color. Just recently, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule to remove the nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity that were included in Section 1557 of the ACA. HHS has also issued a final refusal of care rule that essentially authorizes anyone involved in patient care to refuse medical care and information to patients based on personal beliefs – thereby facilitating discrimination in healthcare against individuals from already-marginalized communities. Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has undertaken a discriminatory effort to change the Equal Access Rule by weakening protections for transgender individuals experiencing homelessness and allowing shelters that receive federal funds to turn individuals away based on gender identity – forcing them on the street.
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.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
As a primary care physician, every day I saw the ways prejudice, social and economic marginalization, and violence prevent transgender and non-binary people from receiving the medical care they deserve. So, I got to work. I established the MGH Transgender Health Program, where I also serve as Medical Director. My colleagues and I can now provide high quality, personalized care to members of this community. I am proud of the work we’ve done to build this program, and that we have partnered with community leaders and advocates that serve the LGBTQ community. In the process, the importance of transgender care has become a part of the fabric of the institution and will forever be a part of the hospital’s mission.
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
I grew up in the Old Colony Housing Projects in South Boston, which were recently re-named as the “Anne Lynch Homes at Old Colony” after my Mom, who helped established the first Library for the children who lived there. I also worked as a Union iron-worker for nearly 20 years, I’ve stood in unemployment lines and I remember that feel-ing of insecurity when it’s been difficult to make ends meet for your family. Affordable housing isn’t just a government program – it was home for me and my mom and dad and my five sister. And it remains home to a lot of families that are struggling just like my family struggled. That’s why I’m committed to working to protect and expand access to safe, affordable, and quality housing for our most vulnerable communities. This has been a priority for me on the House Financial Services Committee. Under the leadership of Chairwoman Maxine Waters and in coordination with Sen. Kamala Harris, the Nation-al Low Income Housing Coalition, and other affordable housing stakeholders, we developed and passed H.R. 5187, the Housing is Infrastructure Act – a bill to provide $100 billion in federal funding to rebuild and expand safe, affordable, and climate resilient housing nationwide. Given the housing disparities that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, we also worked to include $175 billion in federal housing assistance in the House-passed HEROES Act to help renters and homeowners make their monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments while also extending and expanding the eviction moratorium and mortgage forbearance provisions included in the CARES Act. We are still working to get these important bills passed in the Senate. As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I also worked with our Chair-man Peter DeFazio to ensure that the recent surface transportation reauthorization bill passed by the House – H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act – also included a $100 billion in-vestment in national affordable housing.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
Massachusetts’ ban on rent control, rent stabilization measures, and meaningful tenant protections has been disastrous, and have contributed to skyrocketing rents and high rates of tenant displacement. We need to restore power to municipalities, who can best understand and address the specific challenges of their residents as they struggle to find and keep affordable housing. At the same time, it’s up to Congress to lead on the issue, and increase federal funding for new affordable housing construction and set national standards for tenant protections.
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
Racism, systemic discrimination, and injustice are hostile to American values and the promise of America. Institutional racism violates the principles of equality and due pro-cess under the law enshrined in our Constitution. As demonstrated by the peaceful pro-tests led by America’s young people across our nation, we have a historic opportunity to generate change through collective action and take significant steps towards combating racial inequality and injustice in this country. As an original cosponsor, I continue to urge passage of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, comprehensive legislation led by the Congressional Black Caucus to enhance policing accountability and transparency, end racial profiling, invest in community-based policing programs, and build a culture of trust between communities and law enforcement. The bill bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants, restricts the transfer of military grade equipment to state/local police departments, ends qualified immunity for law enforcement, improves data collection on police misconduct, and reinvests federal funding to allow communities to develop equitable and innovative approaches to public safety. At the same time, I’ve worked to conduct continuous oversight of attempts by President Trump to infringe of the rights of citizen activists to peacefully protest in support of racial justice and police accountability. As Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, I am participating in our ongoing Oversight Committee investigation into the Administration’s surveillance and intimidation of peaceful protestors – including the use of federal national security agencies. In my personal life, I am guided by the mentorship provided by my good friend, Rep. John Lewis. John used the power of his own life’s experience to educate and persuade others to the cause of equality and reflected a genuine compassion and willingness to listen and hear the voices of others. I’ve been proud to participate in many local Black Lives Matter marches, vigils and protest events and lend support to individuals, families and communities who have been denied the full opportunities and protection guaranteed by our Constitution.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
As a physician, I see every day the ways that structural racism is a barrier to my Black and Brown patients. I will ensure that our district has a voice in this conversation and a representative ready to lead on these issues.
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
As an original cosponsor of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, I voted in favor of this historic bill because I believe that we must reexamine our longstanding approach to public safety and establish a new public safety model that is based on community engagement, participation, and investment. The bill, developed under the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, reflects this commitment to empowering our communities in an equitable way. It dedicates significant resources to-wards building community-based and community-developed public safety programs – including public safety innovation grants for communities and nonprofit organizations to establish local task forces that operate similar to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These task forces would examine and develop modern strategies for law enforcement – including public safety approaches that do not require law enforcement participation. I also look forward to examining the full text of the BREATHE Act – legislation that not yet in writing but is being developed under the leadership of the Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives. I understand that many of the provisions are similar to what has been included in the George Floyd Act and will also address law enforcement and criminal justice reform through the establishment of innovative grant programs that promote community health, job creation, affordable housing, and environmental justice.
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.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
I wholeheartedly support reforming the criminal legal system which deliberately and disproportionately targets Black people. I support the Black Live Matter movement and will follow the leadership of those involved in the movement.
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
My views on gun control are shaped by the fact that my young cousin Brian Havlin was shot to death in the housing projects where we grew up. He left a loving family and a baby daughter who never got the chance to know her dad. I have witnessed the sense-less tragedy and terrible burdens that gun violence creates.
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.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
The epidemic of gun violence in the United States is one of the primary reasons I chose to run for office. As a physician, I see people in my community who experience the daily horrors of gun violence. I recognize this epidemic as the public health crisis that it is. The federal government, however, chooses to deliberately ignore this crisis. The US has the largest numbers of gun deaths of any developed country in the world. For every person who dies from gun violence in America another 2-4 are injured (we don’t know the number of non-fatal injuries with any accuracy because, unconscionably, CDC stopped reliably tracking these numbers years ago).
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?
Stephen F. Lynch
Eliminating the gender earnings gap remains a priority for me – as a lawmaker, a husband, a father of a daughter who is about to enter workforce full-time, as a brother with five sisters and a labor attorney who advocated for equal rights in the workplace. I’m proud to have supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama – to better ensure that individuals can challenge unequal pay structures under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I’m also proud to support the Paycheck Fairness Act – legislation passed by the House on Equal Pay Day in 2020 to strengthen equal pay protections and build upon the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The bill, which awaits Senate action, would specifically prohibit employers from asking applicants about their salary history, ban companies from retaliating against workers who share wage data, and enhance penalties for equal pay violation. I am also a strong supporter of legislation to ensure the ratification of the historic Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. In addition to ensuring equal pay, we must address other structural inequalities that women face in the workplace. I support legislation to address sexual harassment and discrimination against based on gender, to enhance paid family and medical leave, and to combat violence against women. I am also strongly opposed to misguided efforts to further curtail reproductive rights and have fought on the House Floor against legislation designed to defund organizations such as Planned Parenthood that provide critical family planning and women’s healthcare services. As Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, I am also committed to the advancement of women’s rights globally. Just last month, I held a hearing to examine the Trump Administration’s Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security. I underscored to numerous Trump officials that U.S. national security – and greater security and stability in fragile states and post-conflict environments around the world – depend on women having a seat at the table and governments affording meaningful consideration of their voices and interests.
Dr. Robbie Goldstein
It is time for Congress to take direct action to promote equal pay. In most households in America, women are the primary breadwinners. During this pandemic, the significance of fields dominated by women has become especially clear. Teaching, nursing, retail work, and many other essential fields are disproportionately made up of women.
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.