Schakowsky: Fight for LGBT rights ‘is my fight’

Schakowsky at the 2012 pride parade. Photo: Tony Merevick.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky called for more women to run for higher office and for full LGBT rights equality, while decrying the GOP’s Romney/Ryan presidential ticket as a bad choice for women voters in an interview with Chicago Phoenix at the Democratic National Convention.

“I think our country would be a whole lot better off if there were more than 17 percent women in the United States Congress,” Schakowsky said. “I think the agenda would be more humane and more sensible than under the current majority party in the Congress under Republican’s leadership. We are saying to women that the Romney/Ryan team is wrong for women. People need to vote this election as if their lives depend on it — particularly for women this is true.”

Schakowsky, who has served the 9th District of Illinois since 1999 and has been an ally to the LGBT community, continued to stress her point. When it comes to women’s reproductive health, rights to choice regarding their own bodies, access to birth control, and even pocketbook issues like fair pay, the Democrats’ record is better than Republicans, she said.

“Things that only used to be said in locker rooms are now part of speeches in the U.S. House of Representatives,” she said. “There is no wonder why there is such a gender gap between the Democratic and Republican parties.”

She also highlighted the stark differences between the DNC and the previous week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., saying Democrats have an edge with women and LGBT Americans. She commended the DNC’s LGBT delegates, who were 520 strong in Charlotte, N.C., saying they are evidence of the party growing as a whole.

“The LGBT community should pat itself on the back for getting this far. It is stunning to me how far the movement has come even in the last four years,” she said. “The fact that marriage equality is mentioned again and again from the podium — getting rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; this is such a friendly place where (LGBT delegates) are supported and embraced for who they are. It is remarkable progress.”

“I see the progress toward human equality on a continuum that — that fight is my fight, even as a straight woman, just as the civil rights movement was my fight as a white woman,” Schakowsky said. “I think a lot of people feel that now.”

Schakowsky said Democrats will be working hard to make key arguments to get women and LGBT voters to the polls to support President Barack Obama’s reelection to a second term.

“This campaign has one of the best organizations I have ever seen, even compared to 2008,” she said. “We have the organization that is going to get the people out. There are dozens of offices in every battleground state, and we are just going to out-organize them.”

Schakowsky is a national surrogate for the Obama reelection campaign.

She said a key concern to the Obama campaign, and to Democrats as a party, is voter suppression. She said Democrats are going to have to do what is necessary to fight back against voter suppression laws.

“That’s what Republicans do, if they can’t win by the rules they change the rules,” she said. “These voter suppression laws are nothing more than making sure that Democrats and Democratic constituencies can’t vote. It has nothing to do with a supposed problem that doesn’t exist.”

Schakowsky said she will continue to travel the country to support Democratic candidates like lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), as she runs for U.S. Senate; and help get out the vote in the countdown to the Nov. 6 General Election.