Women Legislators' Lobby

Nearly 100 Women Legislators Urge the U.S. Senate Not to Silence Women’s Voices

As elected officials, we understand that when you silence one of us, you are effectively silencing the people we represent. All too often, it is women who are silenced.

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to publicly and formally silence Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The vote occurred when Senator Warren attempted to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King into the record as she spoke out against Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General. King wrote the letter in 1986 articulating why the Senate should vote against confirming Senator Sessions as a federal judge. Ultimately her letter helped swing the decision to oppose Sessions’ federal judgeship. Recognizing the salience of Mrs. King’s words while the Senate considered the same man for Attorney General, Senator Warren attempted to include Mrs. King's letter in the official Senate record.

In a rare procedural move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cut off Warren’s speech while she read the letter. And in a party-line vote, the U.S. Senate agreed to stop Senator Warren mid-speech and bar her from speaking during the Sessions debate again. It is particularly worrisome that Leader McConnell barred Senator Warren from the debate, but hours later, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and other male senators read the letter in its entirety without interruption or reprimand. 

In shutting Warren down, McConnell said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

She did persist – it’s what women do when they stand up and fight for what they believe in.

Silencing the voices of women is nothing new. Doing so in the U.S. Senate sends a strong message that women should not be heard. This week, nearly 100 women state legislators signed a letter to the U.S. Senate reiterating that women have a right to speak and be included in public debate.

Read more in the letter here.

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