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EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth Warren pledges to lead on LGBT rights

Elizabeth Warren, who is running to unseat U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), pledged to support a series of pro-LGBT initiatives and called on President Obama to endorse marriage equality in an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

Warren endorsed the idea of an executive order from President Obama that would require companies doing business with the U.S. government to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies for their workers.

Elizabeth Warren

“Any steps that the president can take toward non-discrimination benefit the whole country,” Warren said. “I don’t know how else to say it. It’s the right thing to do.”

The measure is sometimes referred to as the “ENDA” executive order because its effect would be similar to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but limited to federal contractors. The White House hasn’t said whether it will issue the directive.

Warren called on President Obama to complete his now 17-month-old “evolution” and endorse marriage equality. She also said she supports the call for a marriage equality plank in the Democratic Party platform this September.

Asked whether she wants Obama to finish evolving and support same-sex marriage, Warren chuckled and responded that was indeed her view.

“I want to see the president evolve because I believe that is right; marriage equality is morally right,” Warren said.

Warren expressed similar sentiments about the Democratic Party platform, saying it would build support for ending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

“I’d be glad to see it included in the Democratic platform,” she said. “It helps raise awareness of the impact of DOMA and it helps build support to repeal it.”

The platform committee is set to discuss language for the Democratic Party platform when it gathers for the Democratic National Convention Sept. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.

Warren, an expert on the American economy and personal finance, gained notoriety after she chaired the congressional oversight panel for the 2008 bank bailout program. She led the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was set up by the 2010 Wall Street reform bill, and was a favorite among progressives to head the organization before she launched her Senate bid and Richard Courdray was recess appointed to the role.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work and among the chief advocates of the ENDA executive order, said “it makes perfect sense” for Warren to come out for the measure because it would ensure taxpayer money won’t go to work environments hostile to LGBT people.

“I hope Ms. Warren will telephone President Obama and urge him to pick up his pen and sign the ‘ENDA Executive Order’ that his Justice and Labor departments have drafted and delivered to the White House for his signature,” Almeida said.

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, also praised Warren for supporting the initiatives related to same-sex marriage and called on Obama and the Democratic Party to come into alignment with her views.

“We welcome Elizabeth Warren alongside the many other leaders, and the signers of our online petition, as we urge President Obama and the Democratic Party to stand with Presidents Clinton and Carter in the growing nationwide majority for marriage,” Wolfson said.

Warren, who’s already expressed support for DOMA repeal, also said during the interview that she would take a leadership role in efforts to repeal the 1996 anti-gay law if elected to the Senate.

“I think that DOMA is a terrible statute,” Warren said. “For forever, the federal government has permitted the states to define marriage, and now the federal government steps in and says, ‘Yeah, the states get to do it for most families, but not those families because we don’t like them.’”

If elected to the Senate, Warren would represent a state where more than 13,000 same-sex couples have been legally married. She said DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of these unions, is “institutionalized discrimination.”

“Being a senator from Massachusetts, it’s possible not just to be a vote in the right direction, it’s possible to provide leadership,” Warren said. “I think that starts by calling out the statute on how wrong it is morally and counter to our basic legal foundation.”

Warren noted that DOMA means a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts won’t have access to federal benefits and that those with grown children, in some instances, can’t visit grandchildren in another state “without being treated during the visit as having a different marital status.”

Continue reading at the Washington Blade

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