State of the Union guests: Lawmakers highlight policing, abortion, wrongful imprisonment

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Tuesday's State of the Union address will be the first year lawmakers will be allowed to invite their own guests to since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of a decades-long tradition, lawmakers invite guests to draw attention to issues that are important to them. This year, many are focusing on a host of social justice issues like abortion access, wrongful imprisonment, police and gun reform.

Here are some of the guests who are expected to attend the event.

JILL BIDEN STATE OF THE UNION GUESTS: Parents of Tyre Nichols, killed by Memphis police, named as State of the Union guests

First Lady Jill Biden's guests include parents of Tyre Nichols; Bono

First Lady Jill Biden's State of the Union guests include RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, Tyre Nichols’ mother and stepfather. Nichols, a 29-year-old skateboarder and FedEx employee, was killed last month by Memphis police. His parents have since pledged to fight for police reform in the wake of their son's death.

Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, will also attend as Biden's guest. Bono is also cofounder of the ONE campaign, which addresses poverty and preventable diseases and (RED), which fights HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Other guests who will be sitting with first lady Jill Biden during the speech include:

  • Brandon Tsay, the man who disarmed the Monterey Park gunman who killed 11 people and injured 10 others during a Lunar New Year celebration.

  • A Texas woman who almost died because doctors were concerned that intervening when her pregnancy ran into difficulties would violate the state’s abortion ban.

  • One of the Massachusetts same-sex couples who sued the state for the right to marry in 2001.

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George Santos to bring former 9/11 rescue firefighter

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., plans to bring a former volunteer firefighter, Michael Weinstock, as his guest to the State of The Union. Weinstock was at Ground Zero during the Sept. 11 attacks Santos previously faced backlash after falsely implying that his mother died that day after being trapped in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck.

Lawmakers center abortion rights in State of the Union guest list

Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who nearly died after being denied medical intervention because of the state's abortion ban, is one of first lady Jill Biden’s State of the Union guests. Zurawski is among several guests highlighting abortion as a central issue during a critical year for abortion access in the U.S.

  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., has invited Anabely Lopes, a Florida woman who was forced to fly to Washington, D.C. for abortion care.

  • Roslyn Rogers Collins, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood Metropolitan New Jersey, will attend alongside Rep. Rob Menendez, D-N.J., according to Planned Parenthood.

  • Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., will be joined by Kelsey Leigh, an abortion patient advocate.

  • Dr. Jamila Perritt, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, will join Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.

  • Erin King, an abortion care provider, will join Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

  • Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has invited Kate Dineen, a Massachusetts woman whose personal abortion story influenced the state’s 2022 shield law.

  • Democratic Whip Rep. Katherine Clark has invited Dr. Cheryl Hamlin, an OB/GYN and reproductive justice advocate.

  • Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., will be joined by Misty Tzugaris, a mother and educator whose abortion story involving a nonviable pregnancy was shared on the House floor just weeks before Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.

  • Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Ga., invited Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, a multiracial reproductive justice organization.

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Warren, Murray invite mothers to highlight affordable child care

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, is inviting a mother who has experienced firsthand the challenges and setbacks of a lack of quality, affordable child care where she lives. Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., invited Eugénie Ouedraogo, a nursing student at UMass Dartmouth and mother of three.

"We both know what it’s like to struggle to find child care while pursuing an education," Warren said of her guest in a tweet. "I’m fighting to ensure that every family can find affordable, quality child care."

Congressional Black Caucus centers wrongful imprisonment, police reform

Member of the Congressional Black Caucus are bringing guests impacted by police violence to the State of the Union while others are bringing people who have been wrongly imprisoned to highlight police and prison reform.

  • The parents of Tyre Nichols, will attend the speech.

  • House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries invited Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died at the hands of a New York police officer choking him.

  • Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., is bringing Michael Brown, Sr., father of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, invited Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked nationwide protests.

  • Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Ohio, invited Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was killed by police in Cleveland in 2014.

  • Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., invited professional basketball player Sterling Brown. Brown was tased by police in 2018 while he was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.

  • Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn, invited Dennis “Freedom” Horton, who along with his brother, Lee Horton, were exonerated after being imprisoned for nearly 28 years for a murder they did not commit.

Victims of gun violence, school shootings invited

Some lawmakers are also inviting family members of victims of mass shootings, including last year's massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

  • Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, and Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., are hosting Brett Cross, whose son Uziyah García was among the 19 students who died in the Uvalde school shooting, and Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquín Oliver was among the 17 victims of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

  • Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., invited Zeneta Everhart, whose son was injured in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, last year.

Army veterans, law enforcement officials on guest list

Army veterans and law enforcement officials are also among the guests expected at the State of the Union.

  • Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., invited Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffrey T. Smith of Fort Plain, New York. Stefanik applauded law enforcement officials and criticized President Joe Biden's law enforcement policies in a statement announcing Smith as a guest.

  • Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), who is skipping Biden’s address, is giving her ticket to Retired Illinois Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Mark A. Hurley, who left the military over Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine. “Biden used the COVID vaccine mandate as a political purge to force the best and the brightest out of our military, and Biden has still failed to provide accountability for his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan more than two years ago,” Miller said.

  • Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., said she plans to boycott the State of the Union, according to NPR Illinois. But she announced she will give her ticket to Retired Illinois Air Force Colonel Mark A. Hurley, who left the military over COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

  • Sen. Klobuchar, D-Minn., invited Amanda Barbosa, a Minnesota veterans advocate and the wife of former Army Captain Rafael Barbosa, "who is living with Stage 4 colon cancer after his service in Iraq and Afghanistan where he was exposed to burn pits," according to a statement from Klobuchar's office.

  • Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, invited Andrea Neutzling, a Pomeroy Army veteran who was exposed to toxic burn pits during her deployment to Iraq.

Afghanistan, foreign policy highlighted on guest list

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, invited Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan's first female ambassador to the United States. McCaul is part of a committee investigating Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan and said he hopes Rahmani's presence will "send a signal to the women of Afghanistan that they have not been forgotten."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., invited Alex Plitsas, a U.S. Army veteran who helped evacuate hundreds of Afghan refugees following withdrawal in August 2021.

Contributing: Maureen Groppe and Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY

Contact Christine Fernando at or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: State of the Union guests: Who lawmakers are inviting for Biden speech