Thank you so much for the kind introduction. It is such a pleasure to be here today. I am delighted to join the Department of Justice’s celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Pride Month. Pride is an important time of year — a time to come together, support each other, celebrate our achievements and remember our shared history – a history of working together to ensure that the rights of every LGBTQI+ person are recognized and protected.
LGBTQI Pride Month grew out of a protest march that occurred in New York City on June 28, 1970. One year earlier, on the sweltering night of June 28, 1969, police officers raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village — a bar that served a gay and transgender clientele. But June 28, 1969, was not a typical raid. That night, the inn’s patrons and neighbors from the community fought back, together, in what has come to be called the Stonewall Uprising.
Like the lunch counter sit-ins at the beginning of the decade, Stonewall galvanized a movement. At the beginning of the following summer, activists in New York organized what they called Christopher Street Liberation Day. Thousands of people marched from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park, shouting the official chant of the protest: “Say it loud, gay is proud.”
That march — the first gay pride parade in New York City — inspired others around the country, and the world. Those marches evolved and grew, becoming a month of celebrating pride. It is my privilege, on this day, 52 years later, to be here with you, and to say: Gay is Proud. And Lesbian is Proud. Bisexual is Proud. Transgender is Proud. Queer is Proud. Intersex is Proud.
The Civil Rights Division is working hard, every day, to ensure the rights of every LGBTQI+ person are recognized and protected. This has been a difficult year. We have seen the passage of new laws that restrict the rights of young transgender people, including bans on medical care and participation in girls’ sports. We have seen laws that prohibit LGBTQI+ people from talking about themselves or their families at schools. And we continue to see LGBTQI+ individuals being discriminated against in every facet of life, from housing to schools to jobs and prisons. This month alone, we have seen media reports of attempts to disrupt some of the very LGBTQI+ pride events meant to bring us together.
Hate and discrimination have no place in America. That is why the Civil Rights Division has been using every tool in our arsenal to challenge acts of hate and discrimination against LGBTQI+ community members. The division’s LGBTQI+ Working Group, comprised of representatives from each of our eleven sections and division leadership, has served as a linchpin and thought leader for the department. The working group is constantly assessing how we can use our federal laws to address discrimination experienced by LGBTQI+ individuals. The working group provides technical assistance to other DOJ components and federal agencies. And the working group brings the Civil Rights Division together with the greater LGBTQI+ community and advocacy groups by organizing outreach events and serving as liaisons.
Let me give you a brief overview of the breadth and scope of the Civil Rights Division’s work on the enforcement front. Right now, the United States is a party in a lawsuit that challenges an Alabama statute that targets transgender individuals. In partnership with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama, the division has intervened in the challenge to Alabama’s Senate Bill 184. SB 184 criminalizes certain forms of gender affirming medical care for transgender minors, but allows that same care when cisgender minors seek it. Our complaint alleges that SB 184 discriminates on the basis of sex and transgender status in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Last month, a federal district court agreed with us and issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking the law from taking effect. While much work remains to be done – as the state is appealing the preliminary injunction and discovery is proceeding in the district court – the department’s steadfast commitment to this important case continues.
We’ve also increased our focus on uncovering housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a December 2021 settlement, we obtained over $4 million in monetary damages for tenants and prospective tenants, including gay or bisexual men, who had been sexually harassed by a landlord in New Jersey.
We are working to address HIV discrimination — for example, by filing a lawsuit against a town in Indiana alleging that its police department unlawfully revoked a job offer to a qualified law enforcement officer based on his HIV diagnosis in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And the division is also vindicating the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals harmed by hate crimes. One example: we obtained a 23-year prison sentence for a man who used Grindr to lure at least nine gay men to a vacant apartment in Dallas, Texas, where they were threatened and assaulted.
The department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of LGBTQI+ individuals is also reflected in the numerous amicus briefs and statements of interests it has filed recently. For example, we have weighed in in favor of a transgender boy who wanted to use the boys’ restroom at his high school and on behalf of a transgender woman who was housed in a men’s prison.
In short, the department stands together with the LGBTQI+ community, this month and every month.
I want to turn now to introducing U.S. Special Envoy Jessica Stern, who will be delivering today’s keynote address. I am honored to introduce Ms. Stern and we are lucky to have her with us today. President Biden appointed Ms. Stern to the State Department as the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, and she is overseeing the implementation of the Feb. 4, 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World. She has a wealth of experience. Prior to joining the State Department, she led OutRight Action International, a leading global LGBTQI+ human rights organization, as its Executive Director for 10 years. She also was a researcher at Human Rights Watch, a fellow at Amnesty International, a program director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs.
I am thrilled to have Ms. Stern with us today. Please join me in extending a warm welcome for Ms. Stern.