Editors' Note: New Hampshire Representative Paul Hodes is this morning's guest blogger; he is running for the Senate this year. Since Hodes is an actual champion of LGBT rights, I'd encourage you to donate to his campaign. We're going to need all the votes we can get in the Senate since ENDA and DADT repeal are held up in that body.
Thank you for giving me the chance to share my thoughts with you again--a few weeks ago, I participated in a LGBT-focused live chat hosted by this blog and several others including Pam's House Blend and AMERICAblog, and I was grateful to have that opportunity to speak with you all.
During my campaign for the US Senate, I've come to realize that there are some significant ideological differences between myself and my opponent, the Sarah Palin-endorsed Kelly Ayotte.
One of the most fundamental issues we disagree on--and it's an issue she and I disagree very strongly on--is the issue of equality. I believe that equality is one of the inviolable cornerstones of our great nation, while Kelly Ayotte is against it.
I have been humbled to receive the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign and the National Stonewall Democrats, who named me one of their 2010 Elect Equality candidates. Though I certainly don't fight for equality just to win political points, I'm glad to know that this community has my back through these tough fights.
Let me say right off the bat that I am a strong, unequivocal supporter of marriage equality. I was proud when New Hampshire passed a law moving from us from civil unions to full marriage equality. As I said at the time, marriage equality is consistent with the spirit of New Hampshire expressed in our state motto, "Live Free or Die."
Along those lines, I have fought tirelessly to uphold our fundamental rights and freedoms. I strongly oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and I applauded when a Massachusetts court found that law to be unconstitutional - DOMA is an outdated relic of a policy that unfairly denies millions of Americans the equality they constitutionally deserve. As a Senator, I will continue fighting to repeal DOMA so LGBT Americans can enjoy the rights they are entitled to, including the right to have their marriages (and the legal rights associated with them) recognized in every state in the union.
Several months ago, I proudly cast my vote in the House to repeal the unjust, outdated 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy, which has led to the unnecessary discharge of nearly 13,000 service members.
I believe that no qualified individual should be denied the honor of serving this country in uniform just because of who they are. Our military will only be made stronger by allowing men and women to serve openly, without fear of being discharged. As a United States Senator, I will continue fighting to relegate DADT to the dustbin of history, once and for all.
I'm also a strong supporter of expanded federal hate crimes legislation. I voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded much-needed federal hate crimes protection to those discriminated against due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
I am also a supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which I proudly backed as a Congressman and will continue to fight for as a Senator.
My record on equality, on standing up for all of our constitutionally-guaranteed rights and freedoms, is clear. I am an unequivocal supporter of full marriage equality and federal protections that will ensure LGBT Americans enjoy the same legal status, rights, and freedoms as every other citizen of our great nation.
As I said, the choice between me and Kelly Ayotte is clear, especially when it comes to equality--on this issue, we couldn't disagree more.
Just a few months ago, Ayotte called the NH marriage equality law "disappointing" and "unfortunate."
Thousands and thousands of Granite Staters fought long and hard to make marriage equality a reality here. The passage of equality here in NH was an extraordinary moment in the history of our state and our country. And yet, Ayotte wants to undo that significant, historic step toward equality, stripping countless Granite Staters of their Constitutional rights in the process.
Ayotte has also vowed to do everything she could to protect DOMA. That's right--she has pledged to preserve discrimination written into our federal laws, denying even more American citizens the rights they are entitled to under our Constitution.
This is why I'm working hard and fighting every single day--very soon, our country will find itself at a crossroads. We can either choose to continue moving forward, continue making progress, continue working toward realizing the equality that is one of our fundamental American rights, or we can choose to go backwards, to undo the massive progress we have made toward equality, stripping our fellow citizens of their rights and relegating millions of them to being permanent second-class citizens.
Our progress may be slow, but I'm fighting so we can keep moving forward. With people like Kelly Ayotte in the Senate, making any kind of progress toward equality won't be an option--in fact, we will lose so many of the gains that many of us fought so long and hard for.
We are coming to a crossroads. It's time to make a choice. Regardless of what we choose, one thing is clear--this election is just too important to sit out.