Thank you, John [Elias], for that kind introduction; for your hard work and dedication to the Office of the Associate Attorney General; and for your leadership of DOJ Pride. I also want to thank Richard Toscano, his colleagues from the Equal Employment Opportunity Staff and DOJ Pride’s entire leadership team for putting together such a wonderful program. I’d like to recognize our distinguished award recipients – Ashley Evans and Shannon Price Minter – for their hard work and extraordinary achievements. And I’d like to thank all of you – attorneys and advocates, friends and family members – for being here today. It is a pleasure to join so many good friends, valued colleagues and dedicated public servants this morning in this Great Hall, where we gather to commemorate the special moments of this department and celebrate the contributions of the varied and diverse voices that make us strong.
Every year during Pride Month, we take a moment to commemorate the accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who have spurred this country to make strides toward the stronger, more equal and more perfect Union that all Americans deserve. We talk about the road we’ve taken, the challenges we’ve faced and the obstacles we’ve overcome. And we look ahead to the journey that still stretches out before us.
This year, we celebrate the final Pride Month of the Obama Administration. Over the course of these last eight years, we have made once-unimaginable progress on issues that have challenged our nation for decades and that have been deeply felt for centuries by individual Americans who often suffered in silence. In ways large and small – through the policies of this Administration, through the undertakings of this department and through the actions of all of you here in this room today and across the country – we have bent the arc of the moral universe a little further towards justice.
With the adoption of the landmark Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009, we strengthened our ability to achieve justice on behalf of those who are victimized simply because of their race, religion, color, or national origin – and, for the first time ever, their disability status, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, we made clear that an individual’s ability to fight for the country they love should never be dependent on the person they love. With the signing of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, we established new protections to ensure that LGBT survivors of domestic violence can access the same services as other survivors of intimate partner abuse. With historic Supreme Court decisions in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, we achieved watershed victories not only for couples who sought equal marriage rights, or even for the LGBT community – but for all Americans who understand the truth of President Obama’s words: that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And in just the last few weeks, we have stood side-by-side with the transgender community to demand respect, to insist on dignity and to ensure that transgender individuals are able to live the lives they were born to lead.
These are all remarkable steps forward. And how fortunate are we to live and work at this time? How many people actually get to see and be a part of their country moving towards a better place? So here, in this place and at this time, let us celebrate these achievements and express our own pride. Pride in this country for drawing closer to the promise of equality and opportunity that was made at its founding more than two centuries ago. Pride in this Department of Justice for being a part of an extraordinary movement that has made its way from a bar in Greenwich Village to the steps of the Supreme Court to a White House draped in the rainbow flag. but most of all let us express our pride, admiration and gratitude for all of you here today – and in the LGBT community and its millions of allies who have spent decades performing small acts of courage – who stood up, came out and carried on every day in the face of antagonism, in defiance of threats and in pursuit of the chance to live freely and without fear. It is your courage that truly inspires our pride.
Now, there is no doubt that we have further still to go – and recent events have reminded us that progress does not come easily and that victories are rarely total or final. The fight for equality has never been easy, no matter who has carried the banner. It will be up to all of us, in the days ahead, to stand against all forms of bigotry, no matter how small or how large and to press forward in our mission to ensure equal rights and equal justice for every American. Because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
It will not be easy. But always remember this: because of the work that you have done, this country has been transformed. As we take these next steps, we will do so in a country that has formally recognized that love is love and that extends the right to marry to gay, lesbian and bisexual couples. As we move forward in our march, we will do so in a nation that legally protects transgender individuals’ right to be their true selves without abuse, without discrimination and without fear. And as we continue this journey, we will do so in a society that understands more than ever that the LGBT community’s story is one part of our larger American story – a story of struggle and hope; of reversal and redemption; of a nation that sometimes falls short of our ideals, but that is always determined to overcome.
The fact that we have arrived at this point – and that we are entering into this new era – is in large part thanks to your outstanding work. And in the days ahead, this movement and this country will continue to rely on the engagement and the leadership of individuals like you. We will rely on brilliant attorneys and hardworking advocates as we seek to build on our momentum and expand on our success. We will rely on courageous public servants like Ashley Evans as we work to broaden our approach and foster inclusion. And we will rely on passionate leaders like the man I’m pleased to introduce now – a leader in the LGBT movement and a champion for the cause of civil rights.
Shannon Price Minter serves as the Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights – one of the America’s foremost advocacy organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He has spent his professional career speaking out for all those who face discrimination because of who they are and whom they love. He’s received numerous awards for his important and trailblazing work and last year, he was appointed to serve as a member of President Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships. It is an honor to have him with us today. Please join me in welcoming Shannon Price Minter.