Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Civil Rights

I have the great honor of serving on the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues including criminal justice system, civil rights, civil liberties, and voting rights. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I take my oversight duties very seriously.

I currently serve as Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over all constitutional amendments and federal civil right laws among other issues. Making sure that my constituents’ rights are not infringed upon is of the utmost importance to me.

Incidents of unarmed African Americans dying at the hands of police in cities such as Memphis, Baltimore, Ferguson, New York City and others have led to many protests across America. While most police officers spend their careers admirably protecting the communities they serve, it is unfortunate that there have been a string of incidents where some officers discharged their weapons against unarmed African Americans. Disparities in the criminal justice system and the death of unarmed African Americans have fueled calls for reform. As someone who has always supported civil rights and liberties for all people, I am particularly concerned about the systemic causes of the protests and unrest in these communities. This is why I am devoted to working to reform the criminal justice system, ensure education is accessible to all people and protect the voting rights of all Americans.

Protecting Civil Rights

Racial Profiling

As a Member of Congress I have cosponsored legislation that prohibits law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling, grants victims of racial profiling the right to file suit, authorizes grants to collect data relating to racial profiling, and requires state and local law enforcement to certify that they have eliminated any practices that permit or encourage racial profiling.  I am a proud to be a cosponsor of the End Racial Profiling Act.

Police Reform

When, where and against whom police use deadly force is a serious issue that deserves both urgent attention and careful thought. Unfortunately, no meaningful statistics are kept to help us understand how to best prevent deadly force from being used inappropriately. That being said, I believe that states should be required to collect data on all instances in which deadly force is used by police and report that information to the U.S. Department of Justice. The required reporting would include the race, ethnicity, gender, and age of the individual against whom the deadly force was used as well as an explanation as to why non-lethal efforts were not employed or were ineffective. For this reason, I introduced the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, which would close a loophole in federal law that prevents adequate collection of comprehensive national data regarding justified and unjustified use of deadly force with police. I will continue to press for vitally important legislation that will ensure that our community is safe while respecting the difficult job our men and women in law enforcement perform every day.

I introduced Police Training and Independent Review Act which would create an incentive for states to require independent investigation and prosecution of incidents in which police use of deadly force results in a death or injury.  My bill would require sensitivity training requirements regarding racial bias, cultural diversity, and interactions with the disabled, mentally ill, and new immigrants. My bill was endorsed by the NAACP, the Chicago Tribune, and has the support of the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus. I cosponsored the Police Creating Accountability in Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act, a grant program that would assist state and local law enforcement with the purchase of body cameras to be worn by police officers. In the past, I pushed for the Justice Department to open a federal investigation concerning the shooting an unarmed African American teenager by Memphis police, and will continue to advocate for acknowledgment of potential civil rights infringements for my constituents.

I believe that this country can do better than to allow unarmed youth to be unnecessarily chased, shot, and ultimately killed without any punishment of the perpetrator. We have a real problem in this country when it comes to the relationship between police and communities of color, which they are sworn to protect and serve. I have dedicated my career to fighting for civil rights and civil liberties, and as the Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee, I will continue to follow these issues closely.

Voting Rights

I have cosponsored numerous pieces of legislation to safeguard access to online voter registration and same day registration, to push for poll workers that are informed and reliable, to create a national voter hotline; and to ensure that all provisional ballots are counted votes. I introduce the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act, to ensure that every state allows citizens to vote for at least 15 days prior to federal elections and require that states provide adequate poll workers and other resources to prevent wait times of longer than one hour.

When the Supreme Court struck down portions of it in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, I cosponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act to establish a new, nationwide coverage formula for preclearance and make improvements to the law. In addition, I cosponsored legislation that requires states to automatically register anyone who provides identifying information to the state’s department of motor vehicles, as well as, legislation that allows voters to provide a sworn, written statement attesting to their identification as a means by which to meet voter identification requirements. I have also cosponsored constitutional amendments that explicitly guarantee that every U.S. citizen of legal voting age has a fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which he or she resides.

Gender Equality

I have been a tireless advocate for women’s equality in Congress. I believe that it is important that women are not denied their reproductive rights. I stand with Planned Parenthood and the essential preventative health services such as mammograms, HIV testing, and access to birth control that it provides. I remain committed to fighting for women’s health care and will oppose any efforts to defund Planned Parenthood or repeal the Affordable Care Act that could put many low-income and minority women at risk. I also work to ensure that women have the ability to protect their rights against wage discrimination. I cosponsored The Paycheck Fairness Act, because I believe that with increased information on wage data and a commitment to eradicating wage discrepancies, our nation’s women would be better prepared to recognize and enforce their rights.

I have been a long-time supporter of women’s rights initiatives, especially when it pertains to making personal decisions regarding women’s health and family. I believe that it is important to ensure affordable abortion coverage and care for every woman. I have long been a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose and I believe that this choice is one that should remain between a woman and her doctor. I will continue to fight for women’s rights here and abroad, and I will urge my House and Senate colleagues in Congress to do the same.

I was honored to attend the Women’s March in Memphis. We must continue to foster a sense of civic engagement in order to effect change in these challenging times. I will continue to fight for the rights of all citizens and work to protect civil liberties.

LGBT Rights

Throughout my career, I have also worked to extend and protect civil rights and liberties of the LGBT community. I was proud to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that called for the federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex marriage. I applaud the Supreme Courts same-sex marriage ruling, a significant milestone for the LGBT community. I signed the Student Non-Discrimination Act because I am a firm believer that any type of discrimination is an injustice to the equality shared among the citizens of the United States of America. While I agree that we must do everything possible to respect the private beliefs of citizens, we must also stop the continued discrimination against Americans and prevent future acts of prejudice.

More on Civil Rights

August 11, 2018 Press Release

On the anniversary of the Charlottesville hate march, planned and carried out by a cabal of hate groups including Klansmen and Neo-Nazis, I call upon Americans to reflect upon the tragic loss of life and the deplorable words and actions of the white supremacists and nationalists, countered by passionate Americans standing for love, tolerance, hope, and kindness.

As I watched Spike Lee’s “The Black Klansman” last night, I thought back on that event and President Donald Trump’s insistence that there were “very fine people on both sides” that day.

August 6, 2018 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) celebrated the passage of the Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on this date in 1965, and made the following statement:

July 27, 2018 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, took note of Saturday’s 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and made the following statement:

July 26, 2018 Press Release


WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) took note of the 70th anniversary of the integration of the armed services by President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981 and made the following statement:

July 17, 2018 Press Release


July 13, 2018 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) commended the Justice Department for reopening the Emmett Till murder case that many say galvanized a nascent Civil Rights movement in 1955. The 14-year-old Chicago youth was killed after a white woman claimed he wolf-whistled at her in Money, Mississippi, and his admitted killers were later acquitted by an all-white jury. See Congressman Cohen speaking about the case on the House floor this morning here. He also made the following statement:

July 12, 2018 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) announced a $142,362 grant to the National Civil Rights Museum to build the skills of young African American students and frontline staff members to address the lack of minorities in the museum field. Another grant for $24,855 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which was created by Congress in the legislation that authorized building the popular National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, will go to the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery’s sports collection.

July 10, 2018 Press Release


WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) noted today’s passing of S.L. Kopald Jr., a respected business leader, and made the following statement:

July 9, 2018 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, expressed his opposition to President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, saying he fears it will move the nation’s highest court further to the right and undermine important civil rights. He made the following statement:

June 19, 2018 Press Release

WASHNGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) condemned the Trump Administration policy change that has separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents along the Mexican border in recent weeks. He made the following statement: