Voice for Equality: Steve Gunderson
August 05, 2009Steve Gunderson is a former eight-term U.S. Congressman from Wisconsin’s 3rd district and current President and CEO of the Council on Foundations. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Brown School of Broadcasting. In 1975 he was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly and held that position until he became a U.S. Congressman in 1980. He is widely praised for his role in speeding the immigration process for Lao Hmong, who had supported U.S. engagement in Vietnam and were later brutally persecuted by the Communist government in Laos.
During the DOMA debates in 1994, Congressman Gunderson was outed on the House Floor by a fellow Republican congressman, Bob Dornan, after an impassioned plea against DOMA. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
“I ask my leadership to recognize that those of us who happen to be in long-term loving relationships also might be considered or at least studied for the potential of legitimate benefits and privileges. For example, if I were to get sick, why should my partner not have automatic visitation rights and automatic consultation with the doctor?Doing so made Gunderson the first openly gay Republican representative. He was the only Republican representative to vote against DOMA and has since been a vocal supporter of gay rights. He now leads the Council on Foundations, an organization of more than 2,000 grant-making foundations and giving programs.
I have letters in my office from people with cancer and AIDS who have been denied that basic privilege. When a friend of mine died last year of AIDS, his partner of 16 years could not sign the documents at the funeral home. Must we impose such indignities upon people even upon the death of their very best friend in life?
And frankly, I want to ask my colleagues, why should my partner of 13 years not be entitled to the same health insurance and survivor benefits that individuals around here, my colleagues with second and third wives, are able to give to them?”
Freedom to Marry salutes Congressman Steve Gunderson as a Voice for Equality!
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