Pressure is mounting on Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and member of the Senate education committee who has pushed for LGBT student rights for several years, to resign from the Senate in light of sexual harassment allegations.
Among the senators who called on Franken to resign Wednesday were Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, as well as committee members Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.
“Sexual harassment, or assault, or in any way using your power to demean women cannot be tolerated,” Murray said in a statement calling on Franken to resign.
Franken will hold a press conference Thursday. If he resigns, he would leave the Senate with a record of advocating for the rights of LGBT students in schools, and in particular for transgender student rights to be protected.
In 2016, for example, he applauded the Obama administration’s guidance—since rescinded by the Trump administration—that said transgender students should be allowed to access restroom and locker room facilities that match their gender identity. And at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Franken questioned Kenneth L. Marcus, Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights, about whether (in Marcus’ view) transgender student rights are protected under Title IX.
Franken also authored the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill which would “establish comprehensive federal protections against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” And he advocated for the Education Department to take an aggressive approach to sexual assault allegations on college campuses, also under Title IX.
You might also remember Franken’s exchange with soon-to-be U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearing for education secretary back in January. Franken asked DeVos whether she prioritized proficiency or growth with respect to school performance, and when DeVos gave an unclear answer, Franken sharply criticized her for what he said a lack of understanding of a key education issue.
Franken also took credit for a provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act designed to aid principals working in high-needs schools.
Photo: Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., speaks during an executive session meeting of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in January. (Alex Brandon/AP-File)