Sunday, January 14, 2018

Today in 1975: Congresswoman Bella Abzug Introduced 1st Federal Bill On LGBT Discrimination

According to, On January 14, 1975, Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-NY) introduced the first bill to address sexual-orientation discrimination in the United States, House Regulation (H.R.) 166, the Civil Rights Amendments. H.R. 166 would have amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of affectional or sexual orientation, sex, or marital status in public accommodations, public education, equal employment opportunities, the sale, rental and financing of housing, and education programs which receive Federal financial assistance. It garnered four co-sponsors and was referred to the Judiciary Committee. The Committee did not consider H.R. 166.

From the City University of New York Bio: Bella Abzug 
will always be remembered by Americans for her devotion to feminist causes, her raspy voice, her wide brimmed hats, and last but not least for her famous saying, "WOMEN HAVE BEEN TRAINED TO SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A LIPSTICK. THOSE DAYS ARE OVER!" 

She as born Bella Savitzky, daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants in the Bronx on July 24, 1920. She attended public schools, graduated Hunter College in 1942, and attended Columbia University Law School, where she specialized in labor law. During her years at Columbia University Law School, she was the editor of the Columbia Law Review.

In 1945 Bella Savitsky married Martin M. Abzug and received her LL.B. from Columbia. Over the next 23 years Abzug divided her time between practicing civil rights and labor law, and defending individuals accused of subversive activity during the McCarthy era. 

Bella Savitsky Abzug was a "Founding Mother" for an astounding network of organizations and alliances impacting our entire world. "Bella Abzug was a spitfire" said Ira Forman, executive director of the national Jewish Democratic Council. She was the founder and national legislative representative for the Woman's Strike for Peace in the 1960's and chaired the organization from 1961 to 1970's. Throughout the McCarthy era, Bella Abzug played an active role in politics from the side lines. She heavily campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and organized the Taxpayers Campaign for urban priorities during the New York mayoral election of 1969.

In 1970, Bella Abzug decided congress needed a more active representative in congress, so she challenged Democratic incumbent Leonard Farbstein for the house seat in the nineteenth district. Abzug, the first Jewish woman elected to congress, won the house seat in the general election against candidate Barry Farber.

Bella Abzug could not stop there, she continued to find and chair several of the countries liberal political organizations for women. She was the co-founder of WEDO - Women's Environment and Development Organization, supported the equal rights amendment, a woman's credit-right's bill, abortion rights, and child-care legislation. 

Bella's brash and flamboyant manner earned her the nicknames, "Battling Bella," "Hurricane Bella," and "Mother of Courage." She sat on the Committee on Government Operations and the Committee on Public Works. 

From Abzug's first day in congress she introduced a resolution calling for the withdrawal of United States troops from Southeast Asia. Throughout her first term, Bella Abzug was extremely active and was not shy "To Beat The Drum Loudly." That was her style. She started taking action on the following issues: she called for an end to the draft, congressional approval of the Equal Rights Amendment, and an investigation into the competence of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. The committee was amazed with Abzug's aggressiveness that she chaired the Committee on Government Operations, subcommittee on Government Information and Individual Rights during the ninety - fourth Congress.

In 1975, Bella Abzug introduced a bill to Add Sexual Orientation to Federal Civil Rights Law. According to Elizabeth Birch, Bella Abzug was light years ahead of her time when it came to advocating for lesbian and gay equality, she laid the groundwork for what has become the Employment Non - Discrimination act, a bill to outlaw job discrimination based on sexual orientation. Bella Abzug stood for all-American people. She was a brave and dedicated advocate of fairness for lesbian and gay civil rights.

At the age of 77 Bella Abzug died on Tuesday, March 31, 1998 after complications following heart surgery in her hometown, New York City. Bella Abzug stood and lived for so much throughout her life. She saw herself not only as a woman, but as an American, a Jew, a wife, and a congresswoman, organizer and activist. Bella Abzug cared for the world as a whole. Abzug's passion, fire, and commitment to women's issues and loyalty will always be remembered. We need her and those like her more than ever now.

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