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Speech

Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer Delivers Remarks at the DOJ Pride 30th Anniversary Celebration and Awards Ceremony

Location

Washington, DC
United States

Hello – my name is Ben Mizer, and I’m the Acting Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice. I’m delighted to join the Deputy Attorney General in welcoming you to DOJ Pride’s 30th anniversary celebration and to join you in honoring our two talented and impressive award recipients.

Part of my job as the Acting Associate is to oversee many of the components that are on the front lines of the Department’s work to protect civil rights — including the Civil Rights Division, the Civil Division, and the Office of Justice Programs. And most notably for purposes of today’s event, this work includes our efforts to support and protect the LGBTQI+ community.

I come to this role not only as a proud member of the gay community, but also as an attorney who has spent many years working on issues important to it — including while here at DOJ. And I think my work on these issues provides a bit of a window into how the Department’s orientation on LGBTQI+ rights has evolved over the last 20 years or so.

Early in my career, I litigated against the Justice Department in arguing that the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was unconstitutional. My clients lost that case at the time, and we were devastated. But happily, Congress remedied that injustice just a few years later by eliminating the discriminatory policy and allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve their country openly. 

Here at DOJ, while serving as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, I was proud to work on a cross-Department team implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case, which invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. It was a joy to advise the White House and federal agencies, including DOJ, on how to fix DOMA’s discriminatory remnants by affording benefits to same-sex couples consistent with law.

Soon after that, as a counselor to then-Attorney General Eric Holder, I advised on the decision to change the Department’s litigating position and assert that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is sex discrimination under Title VII. 

And finally, it was a great honor, as the head of the Civil Division, to see my name included on the United States’ brief in the Obergefell case, and to sit in the courtroom as then-Solicitor General Verrilli argued passionately in favor of marriage equality. 

Of course, even as we recognize how far the law has moved — on equality issues important to the LGBTQI+ community — and with thanks to the tireless advocates who helped make that happen — we all know that there’s so much work left to be done.

This year, as attacks against LGBTQI+ people — especially transgender adults and children — have increased, the fight for equality and to protect the safety and civil rights of this community is more critical than ever.

The Department of Justice is fully engaged in that fight, and our efforts to advance equality and equal justice span the entire Department.

We are deeply troubled by any bias-motivated acts of violence and will never hesitate to hold perpetrators of hate crimes accountable.

This includes crimes meant to instill fear in LGBTQI+ communities and shatter the safety of spaces such as Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in the town of Basin, Montana, where an armed man fired his AK-47 into the home of a woman with the intent to rid the town of its LGBTQI+ residents.

And it includes crimes that rob people of their humanity, like the senseless murder of Dime Doe in South Carolina and the violence committed against so many other transgender women of color across the country. 

We’re also pursuing litigation in multiple states to protect access to gender-affirming healthcare for transgender adults and minors. 

The Department also supports the fight for equality by funding organizations and state and local agencies working to develop their own innovative programs to prevent hate crimes and provide culturally sensitive and trauma-informed support to survivors.

These are just a few examples of the range of work we’re doing across the Department to advance the fight for equality. And although we’ve made a lot of progress, we still have so much work left to do.

We will not let up in our fight to ensure equal justice for everyone, regardless of what they look like, how they worship, or whom they love.  

Thank you. Congratulations to Professor Isaacs and Dr. Sherry. And have a happy, safe, and joyous Pride Month.


Updated June 17, 2024