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Democracy Awards

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier

Representing the 11th District of California

Civil Rights

Seeking Justice for the 50 Convicted Sailors at Port Chicago

Congressman DeSaulnier continues to work tirelessly to address the injustices suffered by 50 African American Navy sailors following the tragic explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine during World War II – the deadliest home front disaster of the war. Clearly a result of the racial perspectives of the time, the sailors were wrongfully charged and convicted of mutiny by the U.S. Navy for refusing to return to work while their white counterparts were given leave.  

Joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and with the support of the NAACP, Congressman DeSaulnier spearheaded multiple efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to publicly exonerate the sailors and erase the historic stain from their records.

In Mark’s view, the Port Chicago 50 were called upon to fight for our country, but ended up fighting against racial inequality that helped pave the way towards the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is long past time to recognize this injustice and to set the record straight. As a nation, we cannot truly move forward until we correct the mistakes of our past.


Working for You

Congressman DeSaulnier led a series of floor statements with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to honor the anniversary of the tragic explosion at Port Chicago and recognize the subsequent injustices suffered by the 50 sailors.

In coordination with Senators Feinstein and Boxer, he sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to do everything in his power to acknowledge the injustice suffered by these sailors and remove the racially-biased convictions from their records.

Mark also introduced a resolution (H.Res. 616) calling on Congress to publicly exonerate the Port Chicago 50 and solicited the support of over 70 of his House colleagues, including several members of the House Democratic Leadership team, and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). The resolution won the endorsement of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Most recently, Congressman DeSaulnier included a measure in the National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Navy to reexamine the circumstances that led to mutiny charges being filed. He also has sent a letter to the Smithsonian Institution to encourage them to include information on the Port Chicago disaster in the recently-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Protecting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT+) Community

During his 25 years in elected office, Congressman DeSaulnier has fought to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the LGBT+ community in Contra Costa County. During his time as a city councilmember, county supervisor, and state legislator, Congressman DeSaulnier was proud to have supported efforts to ensure that the LGBT+ community was protected from discrimination and harassment. In fact, Congressman DeSaulnier received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Congressional Scorecard, which measured support for LGBTQ equality in the 114th Congress.

As a member of the House Equality Caucus, which is dedicated to promoting equality for all, Congressman DeSaulnier celebrated the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision guaranteeing American’s the right to marry regardless of who you are, what you look like, or who you love.  Finally, across all fifty states marriage equality became the law of the land. From workforce and housing discrimination to transgender rights, Congressman DeSaulnier will continue to fight in Washington to protect the rights and liberties of the LGBT+ community. 

Working for You

Congressman DeSaulnier is a proud sponsor of the Equality Act (H.R. 3185), which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and jury service. 

He is also a sponsor of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act (H.R. 2450), which would prohibit commercial sexual orientation conversion therapy and classify it as an unfair and deceptive act or practice.

Mark became a signatory to a 2015 Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court, joining Equality Caucus Members and other congressional colleagues asking Supreme Court Justices to rule in favor of marriage equality.

He asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to end of the current lifetime ban on gay men from donating blood and replacing it with a risk-based policy.

Congressman DeSaulnier joined his colleagues in calling on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to ensure that all states and localities act in compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality.