A fourth-generation Coloradan, DeGette was born in Tachikawa, Japan, the daughter of Patricia Anne (née Rose) and Richard Louis DeGette. Her parents were American, and, at the time of her birth, her father was serving in the armed forces. She graduated from Colorado College where she earned a B.A. in political science, and was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu international honor society in 1979. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from New York University in 1982. She then returned to Denver and began a law practice focusing on civil rights and employment litigation.
Long active in Denver politics, she was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1992. She was reelected in 1994 and chosen as assistant minority leader. She authored a law that guarantees Colorado women unobstructed access to abortion clinics and other medical care facilities, also known as the "Bubble Bill". The United States Supreme Court found DeGette's "Bubble Bill" constitutional in Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703 (2000). She also authored the state Voluntary Cleanup and Redevelopment Act, a model for similar cleanup programs.Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Subcommittee on Environment and Economy
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (Ranking Member)
Chief Deputy Whip (110th, 111th, 112th United States Congresses)
DeGette serves as the co-chair of both the Congressional Diabetes Caucus and Pro-Choice Caucus, and is Vice Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus. With the Democrats' victory in the 2006 midterm elections, DeGette briefly considered running for House Majority Whip, but bowed out in favor of Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
DeGette received national attention in 2005, when the House of Representatives passed legislation she cosponsored to lift President George W. Bush's limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. DeGette, who had been working on the measure since 2001, enlisted the support of Representative Michael N. Castle (Republican from Delaware), who became DeGette's principal Republican cosponsor of the legislation. The DeGette-Castle bill passed the Senate on July 18, 2006. President Bush vetoed the bill the next day — his first veto.
In 2007, DeGette served as the House Democrats' designated whip on the bill reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program (HR 3162). Although President Bush announced his opposition to the legislation, the House passed the bill on August 1, 2007, by a vote of 225 to 204. The Senate adopted a different version of the legislation the next day.
DeGette was also a cosponsor for the Udall Amendment to the House Energy Bill, which the House approved by a vote of 220 to 190 on August 4, 2007. The Amendment creates a national Renewable Energy Standard that requires electric suppliers to produce 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources, 4 percent of which can come from efficiency, by the year 2020.
On September 12, 2007, DeGette announced that she would introduce the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2007 in Congress. The bill was unsuccessful and did not pass the committee level. She reintroduced the bill in 2009.
She is a cosponsor of legislation to provide the District of Columbia voting representation. On January 24, 2007, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Representative DeGette to the House Page Board.
On November 26, 2007, DeGette announced her endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton for president, and was named national co-chair of Clinton's Health Care Policy Task Force and adviser on stem-cell research. DeGette was a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August 2008.
DeGette was strongly critical of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which places limits on taxpayer-funded abortions (except in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother) in the context of the November 2009 Affordable Health Care for America Act.
DeGette is pro-choice and the co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. DeGette and her fellow co-chair, Louise Slaughter, are the sponsors of the Prevention First Act. This act aims to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases through better women's healthcare. The NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC endorsed DeGette and gave her a 100% approval rating based on her positions. DeGette also received a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood. The National Right to Life Committee gave her a 0% rating due to her strong pro-choice stance.
DeGette has consistently voted in favor of the use of embryonic stem cell research. DeGette says "we must pass common-sense embryonic stem cell research legislation, placing these regulations into statute and once and for all, ensuring this critical life-saving research can be conducted for years to come, unimpeded by political whims or naysayers." DeGette and Charlie Dent introduced the bipartisan Stem Cell Research Act of 2011, which would provide lasting support for stem cell research.
DeGette supports bans on semi-automatic firearms like those used in the 2012 Aurora shooting which happened in a movie theatre near her district. DeGette has stated that "the sole purpose of these guns and these magazines is to kill people." DeGette and Carolyn McCarthy introduced the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2012. The Brady Campaign endorsed DeGette's reelection in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
In 2013, DeGette drew national attention after making an erroneous statement at a public forum about firearm magazine restrictions. She stated, “[t]hese are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now, they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.” (Id.) The comment fueled long-running complaints by gun-rights groups that lawmakers trying to regulate firearms do not understand the issue. (Id.)
In June 2016, DeGette and other Democratic lawmakers, led by John Lewis (D-GA) took part in a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to protest the Republican leadership’s decision to not put several proposed gun control bills up for a vote.
Longtime First District Congresswoman Pat Schroeder chose not to run for a 13th term in 1996, which prompted DeGette to run. Her principal opponent in the 1996 primary election was former City Council member Tim Sandos, whom Denver Mayor Wellington Webb endorsed shortly before the primary. DeGette won the primary with 55 percent of the vote, all but assuring her of election in the heavily Democratic district (the 1st District has been in Democratic hands for all but six years since 1933). Schroeder, who stayed neutral during the primary, endorsed DeGette once DeGette became the Democratic nominee. DeGette won with 57 percent and has been reelected seven times since.
DeGette won against Green Party nominee Tom Kelly.
DeGette won against Republican nominee George Lilly, Libertarian nominee Martin Buchanan, and Independent Gary Swing.
DeGette won reelection against Republican nominee Mike Fallon, Green nominee Gary Swing, American Constitutional Party nominee Chris Styskal, and Libertarian nominee Clint Jones.
DeGette won reelection against Republican nominee Danny Stroud, Libertarian nominee Frank Atwood and Green Party nominee Gary Swing. DeGette won with 68.23% of the votes.
DeGette won reelection against Republican nominee Martin Walsh, Libertarian nominee Frank Atwood, UNA nominee Danny Stroud and two write in candidates. DeGette won with 65.81% of the vote.
DeGette won reelection against Republican nominee Charles "Casper" Stockham, and Libertarian nominee Darrell Dinges. DeGette won with 257,254 votes representing 67.87% of the total.
DeGette is married to Lino Lipinsky, a partner in the law firm Dentons, and she has two daughters.Diana DeGette, Sex, Science, and Stem Cells: Inside the Right Wing Assault on Reason, The Lyons Press (August 4, 2008), ISBN 978-1-59921-431-3