Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Marakay Rogers for Pennsylvania Attorney General

We're proud to support Marakay Rogers for Pennsylvania Attorney General. Her survey answers:

1) Since the early 1990s, Congressional legislation has blocked LGBTQ people from serving openly in the military. This discriminatory legislation, commonly referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell� (or DADT), has resulted in the discharge of thousands of qualified military personnel solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. However, the governor of each state is a commander in chief of the National Guard for that state. Will you support efforts to ensure that LGBT people may serve openly in your state's National Guard?
Yes, and to the extent possible given my position I will also support open service in all branches of the military.

2) In 1996, Congress passed (and Bill Clinton signed) the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA). This law overrules the constitutional right of LGBTQ people to equal protection under the law by banning all federal recognition of same-sex relationships for various purposes (such as sponsoring a foreign partner for a visa, or filing a joint tax return). It also allows states to ignore the Constitution’s “full faith and credit� clause and reject other states’ certification of same-sex relationships. Many states have also passed similar anti-LGBTQ legislation or even anti-LGBTQ constitutional amendments. Will you take steps to work to repeal state DOMAs (if they exist in your state) and implement equal treatment in marriage in your state?
Yes. I consider DOMA and all its state equivalents to be violations of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution as well as the federal DOMA being a violation of federal powers in an area strictly subject to the states' determination.

3) LGBTQ people are subject to unequal tax treatment in a number of areas. For example, while opposite-sex married couples aren’t taxed for joint health benefits, same-sex couples must pay income tax on domestic partner benefits that include health care coverage. Asset transfer taxes, estate taxes, and inheritance taxes that aren’t charged to straight couples must be paid by LGBTQ couples. As a result, many LGBTQ couples will pay over five times the tax of a comparable straight couple over the life of their relationship. Will you take steps to eliminate any tax discrimination against LGBTQ people by your state/local government?

4) The House and Senate are considering “hate crime� legislation that seeks to make attacks on LGBTQ people (as well as certain other minorities) “more� of a crime than a violent attack on a member of a majority class. Many states already have such legislation implemented on a state level. Will you lobby against – and vote against – such legislation?
Having once worked as a civil rights attorney I understand the impetus for the passage of hate crime legislation. It is a very emotional issue for many people. What should be everyone's greatest concern, however, is the application of existing laws prosecuting all assaults and violent attacks on all citizens, which are often pled out instead with insufficient punishment for the crimes committed. If we cannot prosecute assault and aggravated assault in the first place, nothing else matters. Currently, there is no hate crimes legislation in Pennsylvania as the existing law was struck down by the state's appeals courts.

5) The House and Senate are considering the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would regulate business and remove employers' and employees' First Amendment rights to freedom of association by banning private sector discrimination based on sexual orientation. Many states and municipalities already have similar laws on a local level. Will you vote against/veto those laws?
The Attorney General of Pennsylvania does not have this particular authority. I could only offer my opinion on the matter.

6) Often, the federal government and state governments use funding to compel compliance with certain discriminatory practices. For instance, one federal bill introduced into the last Congress would withhold some federal education funds for states that refuse to embrace an anti-LGBTQ mandatory educational curriculum. Will you pledge to refuse to implement anti-LGBTQ federal and state mandates even if that opposition would result in reduced funds from federal or state government coming to your constituency?
If there is a mandate received that my office handles, I would refuse to implement it. As an LGBTQ person myself, I have no plans to enforce a law against me. Further, I would offer the support of the AG's office in non-implementation of such mandates by other government units. Additionally, I would refuse to implement ANY form of discriminatory federal or state mandates, whatever their basis.

7) State and federal regulations have severely restricted the availability of certain kinds of health insurance, such as “catastrophic care� coverage, to force people into expensive HMOs and similar programs that offer so-called “comprehensive� coverage. As a result, healthy LGBTQ people have not been able to buy insurance that fits their needs, and many are unable to afford health insurance – rendering them vulnerable to catastrophic illness (and financial stress) as a result. Will you take steps to ensure that LGBT individuals and families will have the right to buy the insurance they decide they want, rather than the insurance that bureaucrats mandate they 'need?'
I will do my best to do so. Pennsylvania already offers certain populations highly limited health insurance, and those groups have in great part found that the coverage is lacking in important areas. All individuals should have the right to the insurance they want, not the insurance that other people want for them.

8) As an elected official, you will be the chief executive of your own staff, with tremendous decision-making power over general employment policy in your office. Will you take steps to ensure that your LGBTQ government employees (if any) are treated equally to straight employees in the provision of health care benefits and other conditions related to employment?

9) Efforts to water down, or even eliminate, the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms have been gaining momentum. Self-defense is a crucial right for many LGBTQ people, who have often avoided severe injury or even death due to the prudent use of a firearm for self-defense. Organizations such as the Pink Pistols have emerged to help protect and defend this right. As an elected official, will you unambiguously support the right of LGBTQ Americans – and all other
law-abiding people – to keep and bear arms for self-defense as outlined in the US Constitution by opposing *all* legislation or regulation that restricts the right to keep and bear firearms?
As a gun owner myself, I understand the importance of the Second Amendment, and although I am not a member of either, I salute the efforts of the Pink Pistols and Second Amendment Sisters in defending all Americans' right to self-protection. I intend to defend the right of all law-abiding people in Pennsylvania to gun ownership and responsible gun use.

10) LGBTQ parents – especially adoptive parents – often find difficulty in traveling across the country due to anti-LGBTQ state laws that refuse to recognize their status as parents granted by their home state. Some have even lost custody of their children due to a simple vacation that took them into “hostile territory.� This is in direct violation of the Constitution’s full faith and credit clause that requires states to recognize other states’ certifications and legal status. As an elected official, will you take steps to eliminate discriminatory legislation or policies that could undermine the parental status of LGBT parents in your jurisdiction?
Absolutely. The rights of parents to their children should not be challenged for any reasons except for the safety and welfare of the children -- and it has long been established that LGBTQ parents are not unfit simply for reason of that alone. Discrimination against any parent on unreasonable grounds is a matter that should have been abolished in all states years ago. Although there is a tendency to condemn liberal judges for judicial legislation, there is an equal issue of conservative judges in certain states upholding or generating vicious policies on LGBTQ parents that must receive attention as well.

11) Do you have any other comments or statements that you’d like to make to the LGBTQ community?
I believe it is important for the LGBTQ community to support LGBTQ candidates, as well as those non-LGBTQ candidates who actually do support LGBTQ interests. Mere lip service to "gay rights" is not enough; voters must educate themselves on the background of the candidates and their actual thoughts on how they intend to support the LGBTQ popultions.