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Civil Rights

Everyone in the United States should be treated fairly under the law, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Congressman Pallone strongly believes that Congress has a moral obligation to act to end end racial injustice and ensure that the United States lives up to its ideals. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Americans across the country have stood up to say enough is enough. It is past time to reform the criminal justice system and ensure it operates fairly for all Americans.

Congressman Pallone supports legislation that will help combat the pattern of violence and inequality and is working to ensure that we end the health disparities too many communities of color have experienced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Congressman Pallone is an original co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 that would address police abuse, hold law enforcement accountable, improve transparency, and create structural change that safeguards every American’s right to justice.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020:

  • Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  • Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal officers and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  • Amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  • Reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
  • Establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  • Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
  • Requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
  • Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  • Establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

In addition to this bill, Congressman Pallone has supported legislation that would reform the criminal justice system and help prepare people to return to society after they have served their time.

In 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act that was signed into law. As its name suggests, this legislation was a first step toward the comprehensive overhaul that is needed to ensure that law enforcement embrace community engagement and compassion. The bill shortened mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and released prisoners convicted for minor drug crimes.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an especially devastating impact on vulnerable populations, including communities of color. As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Pallone has been working to address these health disparities. Where you live or what you look like should not determine anyone’s quality of life or whether someone has access to good health care.

The Health Care Enhancement Act that Congressman Pallone helped pass and that was signed into law mandates the Trump Administration send Congress a report on COVID-19 health disparities. Congress mandated this report in order to better understand how the coronavirus impacts different demographic groups with the intention of using that information to provide resources and support to help close gaps in COVID-19 health outcomes. Unfortunately, the report Congress received from the Trump Administration fails to meet the basic requirements of the law and leaves both Congress and the American people in the dark. Congressman Pallone will keep pushing the Trump Administration to take these discrepancies seriously.

Congressman Pallone also taken steps to ensure that inmates who complete their sentences have access to health care when they are released. In the Heroes Act, he included legislation that would allow inmates to be enrolled in Medicaid 30 days prior to release, providing a smoother transition as they finish their time.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Congressman Pallone called on the Department of Homeland Security to give people in the Department’s custody increased access to phones so they can communicate with their families and legal representatives. He believes we must not allow this national emergency to interfere with the rights of detainees to speak with family members or their lawyers.   

Congressman Pallone's support of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and his work to end health racial health disparities builds on his long record of fighting for policies that reflect our American ideals of equality, fairness and justice. During his time in Congress, he has worked to ensure all Americans, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to the same protections under the law.

  • Congressman Pallone was one of 67 Members to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) when it was first considered in 1996. He praised the Obergefell v. Hodges decision by the Supreme Court that declared all state-level bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
  • Congressman Pallone led a bicameral letter along with 70 Members of Congress urging the Department of Justice to reverse its position in the case of Zarda v. Altitude Express, in which it argued that the Civil Rights Act does not protect against employment discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Congressman Pallone is an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, which extends comprehensive civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans by amending the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Government Employees Rights Act, the Civil Service Reform Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Jury Selection and Service act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.
  • Congressman Pallone has led several letters urging the Trump Administration to publicly speak out and take action against ongoing abuses directed at LGBTQ+ individuals around the world. He believes that we must ensure that the U.S. remains committed to working with countries to protect all of their citizens, no matter whom they are or whom they love.
  • Congressman Pallone has consistently supported legislation that protects the right to vote for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic background. This includes a bill introduced by Congressman John Lewis, the Voter Empowerment Act, which would make voter registration automatic and available online, ensure the equitable allocation of polling place resources, and allow same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting nationwide. These important changes would help to protect and ensure that all Americans are able to use their constitutionally protected right to vote.
  • Congressman Pallone strongly believes in the free exercise of religion. He does not believe any group of individuals should be singled out for extra scrutiny based upon their religious beliefs. He has consistently spoken out against attempts by this Administration to prevent refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, despite clear evidence that they do not pose a security threat to our country.

More on Civil Rights

June 25, 2020 Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) issued the following statement on House passage of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020:

June 8, 2020 Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) today announced his support for the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 that would address police abuse, hold law enforcement accountable, improve transparency, and create structural change that safeguards every American’s right to justice. Last week, Pallone held a discussion with community leaders to discuss the urgent need to end racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

June 8, 2020 In The News

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police and the protests that followed have sparked demands for a congressional response.

June 3, 2020 Press Release

Long Branch, NJ – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) today held a discussion with community leaders to discuss the urgent need to end racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Pallone outlined legislation in Congress that would help stop the disproportionate use of force, reform the criminal justice system, and end racial disparities in the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Pallone is working with colleagues in Congress to move a legislative package that addresses police abuse, criminal justice, and prison reform.

August 1, 2019 Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) sent a letter to Acting Director Matthew Albence at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding inhumane and illegal treatment of transgender asylum seekers. The Trump Administration has refused to uphold its legal duty to provide protection for transgender migrants who have a credible fear of persecution and has failed to adhere to the 2015 ICE memorandum on the Care of Transgender Detainees. Pallone was joined by 33 of his colleagues who also signed the letter.

May 17, 2019 Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) issued the following statement on the passage of H.R. 5, the Equality Act in the U.S. House of Representatives:

September 24, 2018 Press Release

“I am deeply outraged and offended by Congressman Smith’s bigoted views on LGBTQ adoption. Congressman Smith should know that LGBTQ parents are just simply that – parents. They are parents who provide every bit of love and care as their heterosexual neighbors. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Congressman Smith has dismissed the rights of LGBTQ Americans. He should apologize.

January 17, 2018 Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) today led a letter from 34 Members of Congress to Secretary Tillerson asking the State Department and the Trump Administration take a stronger role in condemning the Turkish government for its recent crackdown against LGBTQ events. These actions are part of a worrisome trend by the Turkish government of using physical force and the adoption of discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community since at least June 2015.

October 20, 2003 Press Release

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) denied applications for linguist positions from over 90 Arabic-speaking Sephardic Jews and called on U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to require the FBI to reconsider the applications. Pallone made the request in a letter to the Attorney General today.