Schumer has served as a U.S. Senator in New York since 1999.
PGN: As one of the leaders of a hopefully new Democratic Senate, what are the outlooks of advancing the Equality Act?
CS: We came very close a few years ago and I think, as Martin Luther King said, the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice. And I think we’re going to get justice in terms of the Equality Act. I am very hopeful we can get that done certainly through the Senate next year. The fact that so many people, whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents — and in particular younger voters, who are going to be an important part of this election — are so strongly for the Equality Act and against any form of discrimination is a huge plus for us. I think a good number of our Republican colleagues see the force of history and realize they’re just behind the times, politically, morally and ethically. I really think we’re going to make progress. I can speak as a member of the Democratic team that we will make this an extremely high priority.
PGN: If Republicans remain in control in the Senate, do you think there’s any chance of Republicans crossing the line on the Equality Act?
CS: Virtually none. The greatest power you have being in the majority is to put things on the floor. Then the community and all of us can lobby to get the votes. I don’t think [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell would put this on the floor, given the power of the hard right and religious right in the Republican Party. But if we Democrats are in control and put this on the floor, I think the chances of getting enough Republican votes to put it over the top are pretty good.
PGN: You’ve been involved in politics since 1975, which was the genesis of a new gay-rights movement, in that era from 1969-75. How have you witnessed the LGBT community change in the political realm of the Democratic Party?
CS: One of the things that gives me hope in the future of America is the progress we’ve made on LGBT rights. I graduated college in 1971, and people were afraid to admit they were gay or lesbian in those days In fact, starting about 10 years after I graduated through the next 10-15 years, I must have met 10-15 classmates who I was friends with back then who said, “You didn’t know, but I was gay” or “I was a lesbian” when we were in college. People couldn’t even admit it. The fact now is that this movement has become part of the mainstream, a very integral part of the Democratic Party. And the fact that Americans who are against equality for LGBT people are ashamed to admit it shows the huge progress we have made. Having said that, the fact that we don’t have the Equality Act, a fundamental civil right for the LGBT community, shows how much progress we have to make. But I am heartened by the progress and optimistic it’ll be even greater. Five years ago if you would’ve told me marriage is going to be the law of the land, I would’ve said, “Well, that’s a very optimistic scenario.” It proved to be true, and I have similar optimisms on the Equality Act and all of the other advances we’re trying to make.
PGN: In the unlikelihood of Republicans remaining in control of the Senate and the possible presidency going to Republicans, the Republican candidate for president claims he would reverse a good deal of the executive orders President Obama has passed in the last seven-and-a-half years. Many of them concern LGBT rights. Is there any way the Senate can fight back if that becomes a reality?
CS: If we don’t have the majority, it’s hard to bring to the floor legislation, amendments and even motions that would urge the president’s executive orders to be kept in effect. The difference between the progress and the non-progress on LGBT issues is like night and day comparing Democratic control of the Senate to Republican control of the Senate. This isn’t one where there are shades of gray. You do have some Republicans in the Senate who side with us and God bless them, but the Republican leadership has been adamantly opposed to LGBT rights. They’re the ones who control the agenda on the floor.
PGN: Thank you for your time. We look forward to seeing you here in Philadelphia.
CS: I love your city and I’m looking forward to a great four days in Philadelphia.