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Women Making History: Tammy Duckworth

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

By: Elisabeth Mann

“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk, I didn’t care if the troops saving me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown” -Senator Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and moved to Hawaii when she was 16 years old. She attended college at the University of Hawaii and received a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from George Washington University. She then went on to earn her Ph.D. in Political Science at Northern Illinois University. Duckworth was deployed to Iraq in 2004 where she served as one of the first women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. On November 12, 2004, Duckworth was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade that led to the amputation of both her legs. The next year was spent recovering and advocating for her fellow wounded soldiers and soon thereafter she became the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (“Tammy Duckworth” 2019).

President Barack Obama appointed Duckworth as his Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where she worked to end Veterans homelessness. After an unsuccessful first run, in 2012 she ran for Congress for the second time and was victorious. Duckworth served as the Democratic Representative for the 8th district in Illinois from 2013 to 2017. She worked on the House Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In 2016, Duckworth was elected as the U.S. Senator for Illinois. As Senator, Duckworth served on many Committees, including; the Armed Services Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Committees.

Former President Donald Trump made it clear he does not support the LGBTQIA+ Veterans by tweeting “The U.S. military cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Tammy Duckworth has taken a strong stance against Trump by voicing her support for the LGBTQ+ community. On July 27th, 2019, Duckworth and United States Representative from New Hampshire, Chris Pappas, introduced a bill that would support LGBTQ+ Veterans. The bill would amend the current definition of “minority group member” that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ has in place to include the LGBTQ+ community (Cross 2019). Duckworth states “we owe all Veterans who have defended our nation access to the healthcare and benefits we promised, and they have rightfully earned- regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation” (Cross 2019). She also stated that “LGBTQ Veterans face unique challenges and barriers to accessing the care and benefits we promised them, and because of this, they are experiencing unacceptable health disparities such as increased mental illness, depression, suicidal ideation, certain cancers, and intimate partner violence at far higher rates than other veterans'' (Cross 2019).

According to Senator Tammy Duckworth’s Voting Record--Politics That Work, Duckworth has voting records that show her support of the LGBTQ+ community. She not only supports the LGBTQ+ veterans, but also the LGBTQ+ community in the home, school, and the workplace (Tate 2016). In 2013, Duckworth voted “No” on the Amendment VAWA to remove protections for Native Americans and LGBTQ+ individuals. In 2015, Duckworth voted “Yes'' on the Amendment to prohibit funding to law enforcement agencies that engage in demographic profiling in violation of the DOJ guidance. Also in 2015, Duckworth voted “Yes'' on the Amendment to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Duckworth’s voting record proves her support for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

On top of being an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, Duckworth is also an advocate for women’s rights and parenthood. Duckworth recently became the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office (Wamsley 2018). This led the Senate to change its longstanding rule of banning children from the Senate floor. In 2018, the Senate passed a resolution that permits both mothers and fathers to bring children ages one and under into the chamber during votes. Chicago Sun-Times stated that “Duckworth has authored measures to make sure major airports offer places for breastfeeding mothers to pump milk; the military creates a uniform policy for giving personnel time to bond with their newborn and adopted babies, and to make sure student parents have on-campus child care” (Sweet 2018). Tammy Duckworth’s website showcases the bills she has introduced that are intended to make workplaces family-friendly, improve childcare services, and make resources available to parents. One bill[8] Duckworth introduced was the: End Diaper Need Act, which would allow low-income families to have access to diapers through a $100 million block grant program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Another bill [9] is The Educational Support Professionals Family Act, which would allow for school workers to have benefits of the bill without risk of losing their jobs (“Tammy Duckworth'' 2019).

Tammy Duckworth spoke at the Women’s March on Washington saying that she did not shed blood for women’s rights to be trampled on (Bremer 2017). According to Senator Tammy Duckworth’s Voting Record- Politics That Work, Duckworth’s voting records indicate her support towards women’s rights. For example, in 2015, Duckworth voted “No” on defunding Planned Parenthood. In 2018, Duckworth voted “No” on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, except for circumstances like incest and rape. Duckworth’s voting records show 100% support for women’s rights.

Tammy Duckworth represents multiple marginalized groups by being a woman, a Thai-American, and being physically disabled. Duckworth is voting for policies that help and benefit marginalized groups. Her voting record indicates support towards a humane immigration policy, women’s rights, racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, public health, funding education, etc. Her voting record indicates opposition towards policies that support big businesses, taxing the middle class, and domestic surveillance. According to her website, Duckworth stands for “practical, common-sense solutions needed to move our country and our state forward like: rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, investing in communities that have been ignored and protecting veterans'' (“Tammy Duckworth” 2019). Duckworth has stuck to what she stands for by supporting specific bills and providing leadership by helping to introduce bills that benefit minorities and underrepresented groups in America.


“America's Only Thai Town Celebrates 15 Years in Los Angeles.”, NBCUniversal News Group, June 11, 2015. December 1, 2019.

Bremer, Shelby. 2017. “Sen. Duckworth Delivers Impassioned Speech at Women's March.” NBC Chicago, NBC Chicago, January 23, 2017. December 1, 2019.

Carpentier, Megan. 2016. “Tammy Duckworth Shows Her Strength in Senate Fight: 'These Legs Don't Buckle'.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, August 25, 2015. December 4, 2019.

Cross, Tiffany D. 2019. “Tammy Duckworth Wants LGBTQ Vets Included in Minority Group Members.” The Beat DC, The Beat DC, July 10, 2019. December 4, 2019.

Delk, Josh. 2017. “Duckworth on Transgender Ban: When I Was Dying It Didn't Matter Who Saved My Life.” TheHill, August 24, 2017, December 1, 2019.

Klahr, Renee,Kurtzleben, Danielle, and Mcminn, Sean. 2019. “What It Looks Like To Have A Record Number Of Women In The House Of Representatives.” NPR, NPR, January 4, 2019. December 4, 2019.

Mercado, Mia. 2017. “Americans With Disabilities Are A Much Larger Group Than You Think.” Bustle, August 3, 2017. December 1, 2019.

“Senator Tammy Duckworth's Voting Record.” Voting Record, November 28, 2019. December 1, 2019.

Sweet, Lynn. 2018. “Tammy Duckworth Gives Birth to Girl: First Senator to Have Baby While in Office.” Times, Chicago Sun-Times, 10 Apr. 2018. December 4, 2019.

Tate, Curtis. 2016. “In Illinois Senate Race, a Battle over Who Has Better Gay Rights Record.” Mcclatchydc, McClatchy Washington Bureau, March 229, 2016. December 4, 2019.

Trump, Donald J. (@realDonaldTrump. 2017. “The U.S. military cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Twitter, July 26, 2016, 8:08 AM. December 4, 2019.

Wamsley, Laurel. 2018. “Tammy Duckworth Becomes First U.S. Senator To Give Birth While In Office.” NPR, NPR, 9 Apr. 2018. December 1, 2019.

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