Sen. Tammy Baldwin on advancement of LGBTQ rights, says 'visibility' replaces 'myths'

The Wisconsin senator discusses her journey to become the first openly gay person in the U.S. Senate.
41:52 | 06/10/19

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Transcript for Sen. Tammy Baldwin on advancement of LGBTQ rights, says 'visibility' replaces 'myths'
Take care executive producer of Nightline and welcome to our sect can pride speaker series event. When we all got together month ago to talk about what this series would look like. It was clear we need to tend to politics this here. Mayor Pete is making history as the first ever openly gay person running for president. But senator Tammy Baldwin made history more than twenty years ago as the first openly gay woman to be elected to congress and we are excited she's here with us today. As we all know representation and visibility are so important. Today LG BTQ plus community and senator Baldwin has been a TrailBlazer. And an advocate for community and all Americans and her time in office. Sunny Hostin my friend and colleague will be moderating today's discussion and I want to thank sunny for her never ending support of the LG BTQ plus community. On the view. She and all the women of the view have been amazing allies hours. Now before we get started I want a welcome ABC news president James golds into the stage objections come on up. And get off the noon every ball they and I'm really delighted to be here as as as Steve says. You know as strength. ABC news comes from. Add diversity. And I am I really want to thank Steve byte cap and candy counselors candy. Currency candy. Except for everything that I have dom Adam. To build up its speaker series in I'm I think you know as we as we you know wait as we approach the fiftieth anniversary start walking it's it's great to see Disney pride am and this is you know I think this is the the most depends we've ever dom sponsors of Ebert Ebert excited I am and soap. I'm as Steve says. Senate to Tammy Baldwin a TrailBlazer. In the space and a number knicks selected to me what she has the same element introduced to you. AGCO right Mulder rights have pulled the day the woman I only Sonny hall Stan. So my eyes thank you thank you so much and thank you everyone for being here. Thank you James thank you Steve. For many people and particularly. Those in the LG BTQ plus community politics have never felt more high stakes rate than they do right now. Last year's mid terms saw a record number of LG BTQ plus candidates elected to office giving the community representation and visibility like never before. At the same time we've seen transgender Americans banned from serving their own country in the military. And roll backs or protections for gays and lesbians that proved the fight for equal rights. Is not over. We are honored to be joined today by one of the pioneers leading that fight in Washington DC. Senator Tammy Baldwin was the first openly gay senator to be elected in United States history. And throughout her more than thirty years in public service she has remained an impassioned and tireless advocate for her community. Take a look at this. Generations. We will look back at this moment. And we will remember this moment not for the way hatred and bigotry fueled the politics of the past few years but for the way. Compassion help our movement grow not just figure but stronger. We are here. We have real power. Because of people who came to forests and refused to back down and refuse to be silent. Please welcome from the great state of Wisconsin senator Tammy ball. It's such an honor to plus Cheryl it is my honor. Let me ask you this we tend to think about the middle of the country as being socially conservative. And I I told you backstage I went to law school. At Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana I spent a lot of time in the middle of the country and I've found that. It was more progressive. Then we're being told that your experience. We'll certainly in the state of Wisconsin there's an incredible progressive tradition. But we've seen you know it go back and Warren Ellis Heather some surprises. From Wisconsin especially as it. But facts the LG BTQ community. Would you believe at that Wisconsin was the first state. To enact a lot protecting. Gay and lesbian people from discrimination in employment. Housing. Education and public accommodations in 1982. Feet the first day first usual and that it was signed by a Republican governor. That's quite amazing in it it and so. I think up a number of the early local elected officials. Came from the midwest actually the first in the country many think it's Harvey Milk mission the country it was a Ann arbor Michigan City councilor in 1973. Just four years after stone wall. And it wasn't much longer before Wisconsin elected its first local official. I didn't know that he was out yes. Welcome let me ask you. You've been out in elective office and I can't imagine this since the age of 24. Yes 24. Have and you've been out that entire time. Tell us a little bit about your decision to come out publicly because that's a decision I think that even today seems to be very very hard. Four teenagers. Four young people for older people especially for politicians. Guests so there's several things that I were called strongly about that moment I had just graduated from college. Had moved back to my hometown of Madison Wisconsin. I was so interested in public service and public policy. But I also was fairly newly out me and really struggling with. Did that mean I couldn't pursue. My career. Passion threat eight and it was hard it was scary but. I discovered I could do both that I could live my life honestly and B drew fallen visible and also pursue. Public office in fact elective office where did I leave it to the voters. I would say. I'm. I think Harold and sometimes for a lot of the firsts. Yeah which you just said in the introduction I do wanna tell you that. When I was first elected to the Dane County board of supervisors. I was the third openly gay person and by. You believe it or not in that in 86. And there won't being role models for me. And their manager ship. Initiative saying it's gonna be okay we did it boom. I was really meaningful. To me. And help me make that decision. And if I can. Do the same four or so many others. That makes a huge difference. This doesn't mean I think it makes a difference representation matters and it makes a difference for young people to see you and Hanks well it's it doesn't mean I'm not electable. Right and and when I was in my early two when he isn't thinking I you know I could either be. Open and honest more I could pursue something but I have to. They were role models for me. I think about also thinking when I was a young woman. How high I could go in office and then. Can simulate Geraldine Ferraro yes it gets nominated vice president also they see someone who looks a little bit more like me he did saying. The sky's the limit and so. You know this is what we're seeing changing with so anymore role models and politics and in corporate America in. Entertainment and sports yeah some slower than others to. Have people with high profile and disability. One other thing I wanted to mention is. There is. An active group a I'm out LG BT elected and appointed officials who have been meeting since the mid 1980s. The first meeting I had to take a chance to go to after I was elected to the county board in 1986. Had about fourteen attendees. And then where we're counting. All the other people we could think of in the world. Who weren't able to make it in the world yeah and we cut consider self international because there was a member of the British parliament who joined tech town meeting yeah absolutely. But we thought this public about two dozen. And this isn't in 1986. Today while over 600. Out LG BT elected officials in the nation. And who knows how many more in the world right there there's been significant change but some of that. If the shattering of glass ceilings and has happened only in the recent years so you know looking back fifty years since this. Modern post Stonewall yeah ABT civil rights movement started. We've come a long way got a long way to kind of. A long way to go and it's interesting because this year. Is really climbing in the polls is that something that you ever thought that you would see a formidable. Openly gay. Candidate for president. I'm so and throughout I'm thrilled. With so many women running also. And and actually thrilled with the democratic pregnant hit feel about not tell you it's big it's pig had and I'm hoping that I can and especially server role in. It type about how you win in the heartland that was from the way you entered this conversation is you know how how the heck do Wisconsin elect to you. Having seen it firsthand. You know I think that. We have an America that's much more open and when two. Looking out. Character looking. In select looking. Vision yes and did it smattering lax sexual orientation. Hopes and when. I think mayor Pete and his husband. Or on the cover of time. Do we have a to meet the cabana. First family. What did you think when you saw that. It's a breath taking it is breathtaking and and I just think about. The movement especially with regard to. A QB TQ. Civil rights is our voices and our visibility. Have bitten so much. How things have progressed so you think about. I'm Harvey Milk yes saying basically. Come out wherever you iron. I'm that you need to tell your parents you need to tell your coworkers you need to tell your friends. That as long as people that they don't know anybody who is. Part of the IA BTQ community which was the case. Back in the eighty's and ninety's when I was they're coming. Eight into public service. You grab onto the myths in this area and things that are untrue and so visibility. It replaces. Those myths with a slice of reality right and that makes all the different. It says make all the difference. The I want to address briefly and then I wanna get back to two. Here are your life in your family life. We have an administration. Now. You know the president the tweeted out in support of pride month but then. I'm is in the same. Mother I think we're day. We learned that the administration did not want pride flags hung at embassies. Now you are United States senator from them. What do you do with that. Led to treat. Oh I don't know that I'm. There's good sleep could. And at the time. I was focused statement this story hadn't come out about the embassies I was focused on. His domestic policy agenda transgender isn't notes that. Be. Undercutting of administration policy. For. The LG BT community as schoolchildren yes as. Consumers of health care you just Annan and we are seeing a direct attack on some of the progress so which is pretty recent. Anti basically send your NAFTA a lot better than. Happy pride. Yes it is in order to. Be taken seriously on this but. I also want to say 88. We think about the domestic agenda and where we've come Goldstone Wallace. A point where. People who had with stood nightly acts of police oppression. Rose up and became visible and vocal and Batman fight back. And that started a modern day movement in the U laps. But our State Department plays a critical role in. Advancing human rights across the globe right there are several countries where. Being gay could subject you to the death penalty yes. If we don't people have shocked by that. It it's if you it's very frightening. And so it's important that our State Department. And our embassies and consulates across the globe. Take a stand on human rights which of course includes LG BT Caleb writes. And they do it in different way. Sometimes. During pride month they celebrate by inviting some of LG BTQ leaders unite country. To the US embassy today we respect you we look to you even if your own country's leaders don't. Sometimes it is as simple. As a symbol like the flag or lighting up the embassies in rainbow colors. Just to say you know you're not alone. Do you think what what did you expect from this administration I have they been better or worse. Ford beat LG BTQ community and you expected. I will say that it was hard to have any expectations. At all because. We mostly speaking this president. During his candidacy was silent. It LG BTQ Haitian music Caitlin Jenner could that is right the restaurant the restaurant tower or exactly. And he also. Made a statement at the Republican Convention. About. That he would prosecute the Orlando I think it was the Orlando the shooting yet about whether the shrank. You know wouldn't that the crime it was a hate crime and of course you would but. I but he was relatively silent to and his ex on this issue and so I didn't have. A sense of what he would do. Until I started seeing. Cabinet nominees. And researching their record on issues. Some of them you know it's served in public office before and it is thanks in their accounts. Yes in Dayton and so I think. I I was concerned. But also saying you know we celebrate the progress we made under the previous administration. We don't mistake progress from victory leaky it. Do you have a lot of allies in the senate that will support you went and and your proposals on your agenda for the LG BTQ. Community so that you can combat what's going on in the administration. Like a transgender band in the military which I think is so absurd or it's a hateful. And likely illegal. Absolutely. So. I do. First and foremost and we saw. Last month in the House of Representatives. A at and historic move went in the house passed the equality act. And I know. Hopefully when talk a little bit more about it's important that they took up yeah well. In 29 states. People and the LG BTQ community at lack full and comprehensive protections against being fired. Being evicted. Being. Turned away from public accommodations. Just based on sexual orientation or gender identity or some have. Part some states have partial but in twenty states that that it there's not comprehensive. Thai touted Wisconsin in the first yeah but there's no protection for people on the basis of gender identity. Police sexual orientation them Wisconsin's one of those states. That. There's still vulnerable communities. Get caught in the act is simple it says. You cannot discriminate. In housing employment education public accommodations. On the basis of sexual orientation gender identity. Pretty simple pretty simple. Discrimination or write and I. The Pontiac has never had a vote in either house so that this is historic yes. In the senate. For the first time upon introduction this year. The bill is bipartisan. Men. But you know we have special rules of the senate you have to have. Sixty votes yet to pass something I think. My call to activists allies is. Talk to your senators who are not on the bill yet talk about why this is so crucial. And let's show growing support. Do you think it's going to be difficult. To get there to get to sixty especially because Mitch McConnell is often called the grim reaper. Progressive policies. There's no question that'll be tough men. But we won't get there we don't try and we won't lay the foundation for. The next hear from him year after. It would make a real difference in the conversation whether either Mitch McConnell or. Donald Trump knew if we had. Clear demonstration that there were sixty senators there no I'm not suggesting we're there yet yeah but we are. Much closer than we were two years of our four years ago that although there there seems to be a lot of legislative inaction. In the senate that's now under Mitch McConnell guests are really. The chance of this. Sort of picking up and getting past is. In your view. Well we've spent the last six or eight weeks doing almost nothing except war. Confirmation. Votes. So the president's we're knees her. Sub cabinet position for commissions. And very importantly in this topic. A federal judge federal agency edge of our lifetime appointments. And many of the nation's for talking about will end up. Being resolved in court yet not in the legislative arena events like marriage equality for example. And said these. Our impact fall but no we're not seeing legislation move forward. And it's awfully frustrating when there's so many critical issues that I hear about. All the time from the Wisconsin it's I represent now I wanna. Talk to you about this religious freedom bills because this seems to me. That what you. See anti discrimination bills they're often countered by religious freedom bills the argument being this is my religion. I don't want to bake cake for her to be gay couple and because my religion prevents me from doing that. What do you make of their religious freedom argument is there a comfortable compromise somewhere. What fifty thinks the first of all if you hold yourself if you start a business you hunters saw about her. Customers and then they can't then put aside in the door and say you know someone told me not. Coming right. But the other thing I would say is and I don't want it. But you're a lawyer suspected tiger Matt found that. The equality act. Announces Civil Rights Act 64 which are the ties. Provisions related to any conflict that could come opt. And so I'd argue that. In the course of originally an acting that law. We've resolved this issue and that. People. Who are in the out to BTQ community shouldn't be treated in any different way. When we advance civil rights legislation. I I don't know that there's a place for religion politics but it's it's my view. Do you think the founding fathers agreed but we do see it over and over and over again I wouldn't talk to you about you. And now you were raised primarily by or grandparent has lies and did you have to come out to them to that generation. I did my kind of tobacco as the sick badly my grandfather passed away when I was still little polyps why I didn't. And but I actually talked a lot with my grandmother about. How how did the two of us think he might have reacted yeah. My grandmother. Was so she was born in 1906. She was 56 when I was born. And raised me. Through adulthood she left to be. 94 years old site is one of Aaron. I'm the issue women's suffrage she was born gopher women have the right to vote and got to live. To vote for her grand wow look at a trivia game AS. But I would say and that. I cannot tour before I ran for. My first office in and she was fearful about how it would affect my career how would it would affect. I pursue my dreams justice I have some internal fairness. And I think she was delighted to see at least as far as I was able to go injuring her life. That. Should it didn't think you know it can impede you in any way. And now you've been out an open about your mother struggles. With mental health and hope the early detection that's right and how did that impact your childhood because. My understanding is that. A 130 Americans die every day. From some sort of opium addiction or abuse it's it's a horrible and it's a horrible epidemic right now certainly. Confronting the heartland and the mood certain regions of the country would disproportionately than others. And yet at the time my mother was struggling with their products. They were all prescription can and we had no knowledge as ballot. Or or actions had no knowledge about it at all but I'm not what we know today about the addictive potential. Also. We know a lot more today about the interaction between mental illness and drug addiction hands. So. I. I didn't grow up knowing that my mother was sick and did get off that was. You very challenging for heard actually raised me and I always knew my mother would see her. I'm pretty much every week and yeah growing up. But I was always just. Wanting her to get better and not knowing exactly as a small child what I could do to help me. It was it was very challenging. In today's context I feel like. I understand what so many Wisconsin and it's an Americans are going through in their families. You know edit it in very intimate level yeah it's personal for you I was very personal and me. I I you know I feel like. I've walked to the issues before them. And it's very challenging. But we've got to work together and support when one another and get past the stick. Yes really that's a commonality and all of we're talking about people who don't come out because they're afraid that. People still view it in a negative light. Or they don't talk about. I'm illness that's a mental illness because they think that they'll be judged and there's been some considered a sole long. About us it is is that because of what you came out talking about. Your mother's mental health challenges pretty recently I damn what made you decide to talk about it. Others a couple things so you know at. She passed away in August 27 team. And I think especially in my public life she felt she thought chain that she didn't raise me. Community can move and as much as. You know she was helpful to others who are trying to overcome addiction at times when she was. Living a sober clean life. She felt that stigma and I decided that we. She would want me now. To. Talk about it if it would help anybody else you know seek help. Or help any other normally go through that struggle. You know she was I was from the it was important to her to do personally. And hopefully I can do it on a larger scale you intend to do something about. Oh Buick addiction and mental health and your position is that as a US senator yes and we've had some very strong. Steps forward yen. The 21 century there is act and that comprehensive addiction and Recovery Act which passed in recent years named. It's not enough we haven't turned the corner yet but boy we went from. As a very minimal federal response to really partnering. With localities and states. Especially those suffering the most from this epidemic and I know health care is a big issue yes big issue. What are your thoughts about what you're hearing from its when he twenty candidates in terms. Health care for all summer saying you can just you can keep your own insurance and then maybe supplemented what are your thoughts. My thoughts are that. Every single candidate running for the democratic nomination for president. Is pushing for greater access lower cost and higher quality. And the president in the United States. Is filling in court to ask the court to strike down the Affordable Care Act in his undermining the Affordable Care Act through executive order. And and obviously he still supports taking action in congress to repeal it legislatively. If he can do so and so as one of my. That it. Friends sad the health care debate. Let's not get to pin down. In arguing the difference between. Sky blue and navy blue let's talk about the difference between what the Republicans the red we'll give you and what the blue from kitty in May because that's the real difference in the real choice for voters. I'm. I'm actually get myself. In what I would call the all of the above category. I think here we have got to have. A national debate about what the pact is that Affordable Care Act brought. Twenty million people in two. An environment where they have. And insurance cover it she would. And are therefore seeking preventative care and things that perhaps they didn't have access to public or negating carry an emergency for exactly yeah exactly. And so that was a huge step forward people with preexisting conditions. Like myself but could get health insurance cannot be turned away dirt or charge so much you can't afford it. So we've taken some incremental steps or. Bold steps forward and puff where we take it lacks especially to bring down cost. Is something that every Democrat is engaged in the discussion about. And for me. Who still you know house homeland my support to all of these ideas if would allow us to have a genuine debate. And start moving well you have so many of these candidates for repeat typing their 2425. At at. My last count. What do you think has the best platform right now and planned for health care. You know I think that it's too early and it's how. We're gonna hit but we're gonna have said that candidates things about health care about. The economy how working people can get forward how we confront climate change all these things that we need to. The American people need to hear the current. And I look a lot it how. The candidate to win Wisconsin I don't add that. We're hosting the convention next year yes you know walking when N Johnson. And so literally in the past to the White House runs through with Scott Yeltsin literally and figuratively. Trump won narrowly with about 22000. Vote margin in Wisconsin sixteen. So. Having been myself on the ballot last year and one waited nearly eleven point margin. I. Wanna be. Reaching out to all of these candidates as much as I hand to talk about the path to victory in the heartland in the upper midwest. How to. Recognize. The hardship that our dairy farmers for example gray facing. That. Our manufacturing. Workers who trump really poured it in the city seeing and continues to court. But hasn't advance the policies. That actually get the job done some of those policies have hurt them like the tariffs with farmers at Tarrant senate tax bill that was supposed to trickle down. We haven't seen that we have not sitting right here get a check in there and their mailbox. Well with. Though the polls Iowa poll actually came out today picked. My hearing was today believed. This weekend this weekend and their time you might hear. And book Pete put a judge is this soaring. Elizabeth Warren with her plan for everything is soaring we're seeing Joseph Biden slip a little bit and perhaps because that's. The way he's handled his rollout in terms of the Hyde amendments. What do you I don't know if I believe in polls anymore after twenty to sixteen for what are your thoughts about where the candidates are now. Well I think it's early. Two early cannot bring. Where. Were probably the exception and that we watch it so close yeah indeed all of the polls and see. But I think. In Wisconsin voters. Are gonna tune into some of the debates noon. And there going to be looking for the candidates who are speaking to the issues that keep them up at me. And eight. It won't necessarily. Be what this DC media is focused on mean it will be much power as I was suggesting. Health care if a child with a preexisting health condition and you think the Affordable Care Act might go way in the courts or some other way. You want to know what the plan yes that's right to make sure that. You know that families don't have to face bankruptcy again if if you've worked. In manufacturing. And you've seen. You know the corporation you work for get billions of dollars in tax relief. And they've spent a dollar in stock buybacks rather than investing. The long term. Equipment and training and wages mean. You want to hear how that's gonna change. I was gonna change it you want your plan any airport should night hurt that you you you you're not running for president that you haven't ruled out BP. Did I hear that correct link. I don't know wouldn't riding then no one runs through the second poster people run for president. I I love my job in this. And to be able to prioritize. All the things we've just talked about a boom. Is is. Deeply humbling and could there even increasing political although you are from a purple state. Yeah Democrats need you. Yes they need bets though those sensitive states. That are purple and states in the middle of the country have you had any discussions with anyone. Well I want it to share with all the candidates how they went with its because we just went through that. And had a real turnaround between sixteen and eighteen and when they keep that going in to when he. I have. I'm an open dar and for any of the candidates who want to talk more about Wisconsin and yes they've taken me up on it. Especially on some of that there is specific issues like. We've we've lost but more than 15% of our Gary from since president took office more than 15%. Really yes sailor losing roughly two a day. This occurred because that tariffs because they're a perfect storm at first things that these farmers are facing them but. Gas tariffs when you have tariffs on. Mexico. And Canada. And which and they stopped buying cheese yeah. It's a problem. 90% of our milk becomes cheese and export markets have. They're trying to close a gap. While Iowa I wanna play a clip. Have a great speech you gave back in 2000 at the millennium march for equality in DC. Let's take a look at that. That there are two things that keep us up breast. And and that's. We are happy equation. And that will not be a magic day when it is okay to wake up and express themselves publicly we met that day. But be getting to do things publicly. Preston's mom. Numbers that in greater numbers until it simply the way things are and Nolan thinks twice. You're fired up there. I believe you have opened up the door for so many because representation matters and and those young folks that are that are seeing you and thinking maybe I can do to. I think that impact is immeasurable. But what is what is the legacy you hope to leave behind. How well health care for all would be a great life I would be. Substantively. I would like to see the equality act passed in obviously play a leadership role in. And that I think it goes so much hand in hand with. Symbolic. Aspect if you will look at it that is sort of threefold. Passing equality act and make shirts and forest. Let's create more role models who can say that others who fear. Seeking their dreams and their aspirations that you can do this. Nonetheless important element of the seat at the table or. Being in the room. Getting out of room where it happened right if you're outside of the road they're all talking about you exactly if you're inside the road to have to talk with you and that changes. Every and we say the most important decisions of your life are generally made when you're not in the room. See you aideed champion in the room then we'll champion for you or you need to get map room need to knock down that door. At this point your political career what did you accomplish that your posts proud. You know there some. Any. It's so many things. I think. One of state we were just talking about the opium it epidemic wouldn't. Measures that I. Hats since had been in the senate who is. Republican colleague is a real code championed nationally more capital West Virginia. Was addressing. And over prescribing issue in that the day yes. In aren't that stupid bet suffered from PT SD and meant it exactly and silly side dangerous combinations. We'll be doing its invented I as a pins which are used for. Treatment of certain mental illnesses and both my colleagues and I had. I'm learned about veteran who lost their B and it in my case in Wisconsin. Veteran marine veteran by the name of Jason some koskie and work with the family. To see. What went wrong he lost his life. In VA hospital. Because he was given to me dangerous drugs. And we. Pass legislation that. Basically took. Bottom to top top to bottom approach retrain every person with prescribing authority. The latest guidelines. For safe prescribing. And then monitor this. Real time basis. And present veterans who have pain either physical or psychological. Alternative there be some things that aren't addictive things that give real pain relief. But give them more power. In their own treatment. And you know it it's been. Gradually implemented but when I get. The opportunity to see the changes that have happened. I know how many lives that's impacted any another one from my how to stay. I was on the panel that dealt with health policy while we're putting together the Affordable Care Act you can. I remembered my own childhood experience being without insurance because I had had a serious childhood illness and my grandparents couldn't get find. Insurance at any price. They're also thinking about how much of a worry this is for parents or Foster parents or grandparents. I put forward the amendment in committee that allows young people to stand their parents' health insurance to their 26. Was that you that was that was me in the house. They. You know how these legislative process his work it would have been like in the middle of the night at didn't get I didn't get of speech in the committee and it had a it finally happened. But when I go to particularly college campuses don't they raise your hand if you're on your parents' health insurance and almost every hand go laughs it's like. That's when you can see progress and understand the consequence we'll let the mother of us. And to be college student met here thank you all sit back they are being in the room and where it happens. I'd like to give a huge thanks to senator Tammy Baldwin for joining us today and thank you to our audience here in the studio and online.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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