U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) spoke with the Washington Blade by phone on Thursday about his run for the U.S. Senate, the Republican party’s crusade against transgender Americans and a new bill he plans to introduce that would protect vulnerable youth in schools.
Necessitated by Republican legislators’ invasion of students’ privacy to enforce anti-trans and anti-choice laws, Schiff and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) will introduce the Privacy in Education Regarding Individuals’ Own Data (PERIOD) Act.
Allies close to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have proposed tracking student athletes’ menstrual cycles, which Schiff characterized as “a not-at-all disguised effort to discriminate against trans students” that would be “incredibly invasive of students’ private medical data.”
“There may have been some of this data that was gathered in the past, but the particular focus on it right now, when the Republican party seems to be doing everything possible to make life difficult and dangerous for people in the trans community, is all too telling,” Schiff told the Blade.
The PERIOD Act, he said, is going to be vital for protecting young people’s medical information and “prohibiting this effort to target trans students.”
The bill aligns with other measures Schiff has introduced recently.
For instance, last year’s Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act would have updated the federal tax code such that all Americans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity would be able to claim deductions for assisted reproductive treatments and surrogacy arrangements. And the PrEP Assistance Program Act, also introduced last year, would have made preexposure prophylactic regimens for the prevention of HIV infection more affordable and accessible for high-risk and underserved patients.
“It really requires a whole of government approach,” Schiff said.
“Congress needs to get rid of any statutory impediments to equal access to care, like the ones that exist in the tax code for LGBTQ families that want to have children. But also the Department of Justice has to enforce existing law and made sure people aren’t discriminated against. The Department of Health and Human Services needs to make sure that in the provision of care, people aren’t subject to discrimination. And [the agency needs] to work with hospitals and health clinics to make sure that they’re gathering the kind of data that’s needed to evaluate whether care is being provided on an equitable basis,” he said.
On the GOP’s ‘descent into division, bigotry, and hate’
Asked to gauge the prospects of passing the PERIOD Act in the Republican-controlled House, Schiff conceded “it’s going to be difficult” in this Congress, but getting members to go on the record with their positions on the bill will be important.
Also important, he said, is highlighting the need for the measure so that “when Democrats regain control of the House in two years, we can get [this] legislation passed.”
“We just saw Donald Trump issuing a video from Mar-a-Lago essentially pandering to people’s bigotry, and the fact that this is a presidential campaign platform attacking among the most vulnerable of all Americans, a community that already experiences hate and violence and high rates of suicide is absolutely shameful.”
Targeting one of the country’s most vulnerable communities is evidence of the Republican party’s “descent into division, bigotry, and hate,” Schiff said.
“It shows how low the GOP has descended that they believe their only path to power is by victimizing young people. And so it shouldn’t be, I guess, surprising. But it feels a shock. It’s still a shock,” Schiff said, adding that he is eager for a return to the days in which the GOP had “some conservative ideology, or frankly, any ideology” beyond “just being a party of hate.”
“Donald Trump is still the dominant voice in the Republican Party,” Schiff said. And “Trump isn’t wrong when he said that he was responsible for [DeSantis’] career,” but “he was also responsible for DeSantis imitating the worst aspects of the Trump presidency, [including] in their common demonization of members of the LGBTQ community.”
“We see just how pernicious Trump’s influence has been,” Schiff said. “So I think the danger to our rights or freedoms or democracy continues. And we’re going to be seeing more and more of it as the Republican primary gets underway.”
Running for the Senate
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a groundbreaking and venerated figure in Democratic politics, particularly in California, endorsed Schiff’s candidacy for the Senate on the condition that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) decides not to seek reelection next year.
Schiff told the Blade he was “thrilled” to receive the endorsement.
“I don’t think there’s any person more well respected among the public, among Democrats in California, and among San Franciscans than Pelosi,” he said. “She’s an iconic figure.”
Schiff added that he is “greatly honored” that in addition to Pelosi, his Senate bid was endorsed by more than 20 current and former House colleagues from California.
“It’s reflective of their belief that I’m capable of getting things done on behalf of the people of California, and better than than anyone else,” he said.
Schiff will have at least one California Democratic opponent in his Senate campaign.
Congresswoman Katie Porter announced her candidacy last month, while Congresswoman Barbara Lee is also rumored to be considering running.
“We’re all rivals under the same flag,” Schiff told the Blade. “And so I think Californians will have a wealth of riches” among whom to choose.
“I’m campaigning to protect our democracy, to build an economy that works for everyone, and to save our planet,” Schiff said. “These, to me, are the three existential issues facing our state and our country. And in these consequential fights over the last decade, I’ve been very proud to [have been] at the center.”
Schiff noted his years of service as one of the vice chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, adding, “we’d be very proud to have the support of the community in this campaign.”