August 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the bedrock legislative accomplishments of the civil rights movement. The Voting Rights Act was designed to protect the fundamental right of every American to vote, regardless of race. Despite its significant contributions to voter protection and access, a 2013 Supreme Court decision eliminated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. That provision previously prevented many states and localities from enacting policies that could impose barriers to vote without first undergoing review and obtaining approval from the Department of Justice. Senator Booker will continue to work to restore the Voting Rights Act. That's why he joined with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy in cosponsoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, legislation that would help protect voter rights and expand voting access.
Senator Booker is also a co-sponsor of the Democracy Restoration Act-a bill introduced by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) that would restore voting rights in federal elections to millions of disenfranchised Americans who have been released from prison. Currently, 35 states restrict voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals. These laws have a disproportionate impact on restricting the voting rights of Black and Latino communities, because Blacks and Latinos are incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates. Felony disenfranchisement laws prevent 5.85 million Americans from accessing the ballot box.
Punishment is a vital component of our criminal justice system, but once someone has paid their debt to society, their rights as citizens should be restored. Our country is strongest when all Americans have a say in the political process and this bill would help restore the voice of too many Americans who are precluded from voting for those who represent them in the federal government.
Campaign Finance Reform
Senator Booker believes that we must do more to limit the influence of unlimited, secret money in politics. Recent Supreme Court decisions that prevent the federal government from prohibiting corporate spending in federal elections and removed aggregate spending limits reversed decades of precedent and opened our elections to a flood of money that threatens to drown out the voices of everyday Americans
Senator Booker believes that our entire country does better when women and families do better and supports proposals that ensure equal pay for equal work.
Senator Booker is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would amend existing Federal law to prevent discriminatory pay practices. Senator Booker believes America can strengthen its workforce and support middle class families by ensuring women are fairly compensated for their work.
Too many Americans are forced to choose between caring for their family and paying the bills. Senator Booker is a strong advocate for paid family leave, and believes that expanding paid family leave will not only benefit mothers, fathers, and families, but our entire country. To accomplish this goal, he cosponsored the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would establish a national paid family leave policy.
Senator Booker also helped author legislation -- the Healthy Families Act -- to provide critical protections for workers dealing with illness or caring for a family member.
In 2015, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that recognized that our Constitution protects the fundamental right of LGBT Americans to marry the person they love. Yet, LGBT Americans still lack basic anti-discrimination protections in many other facets of life. Today, 31 states do not have laws preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That means, in states throughout our country, same-sex couples can legally marry one day, but risk being fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartments, or kicked out of a restaurant the next day.
Senator Booker is a staunch advocate for LGBT equality. Senator Booker helped author the Equality Act, legislation that expands protections from discrimination for LGBT Americans. The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in education, employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, federally funded institutions, and federal jury service.