In a bid to keep the sexual harassment debate at the forefront on Capitol Hill, some female members of Congress are working to bring activists, writers and victims of misconduct to this month’s State of the Union address.
The move echoes a demonstration at the recent Golden Globe Awards, where female actors invited feminist leaders, community organizers and activists against sexual violence to raise awareness about women’s inequality. Like Hollywood, Capitol Hill is grappling with a wave of misconduct allegations against powerful men and debating how to fight harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
The presence of the special guests will serve as a silent rebuke of President Trump, who denied allegations of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women during the 2016 election. Contacted by The Washington Post, two of Trump’s accusers said they had not been invited to attend the speech. Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing several of the women, said neither she nor her clients had been contacted.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) plans to bring as her guest Danielle McGuire, a historian and author who has written about Recy Taylor, a black woman in Abbeville, Ala., who was raped by six white men in 1944. Taylor, who died in December, reported the incident despite threats against her life. Her assailants were never indicted.
Women of the Congressional Black Caucus plan to wear red pins as a tribute to Taylor, according to a Lawrence spokeswoman.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), one of the House’s most vocal supporters of improving the reporting and mediation process for workplace complaints, invited civil rights activist Tarana Burke. Burke is known for launching the “me too” movement against sexual harassment and assault. She attended the Golden Globe Awards as a guest of Michelle Williams; it is unclear if she will attend the State of the Union.
Democratic aides predicted other lawmakers will bring guests with perspectives relevant to the harassment debate. In addition, Democratic women are planning to wear black to the speech on Jan. 30. Speier and others have encouraged colleagues to follow suit.
There could be some awkwardness for the women in Trump’s family. The first lady usually receives special recognition during the annual presidential speeches while watching from the gallery above the House floor. In the past, the first lady’s clothing choice has been closely scrutinized.
It is unclear whether first lady Melania Trump, senior White House aide Ivanka Trump or Republican women lawmakers will wear black.