Department Of Education Pride Speech

Uploaded by USOPM on 02.12.2010

Thanks for that kind introduction.
It is a real honor for me to be here with you all today,
and as they said at the HRC dinner a week ago,
boy, you all like giving speeches in Washington.
This is a great historic day.
It actually was a little bit of a surprise to me.
I've spoken at a number of these over the past two years,
and some of them I wasn't surprised
to find out it was their first one;
CIA, Justice, VA, places that,
you know, we are present everywhere.
But it is so good to see education joining
that community and your leadership today.
Kevin, thank you.
We have just an amazing friend in Kevin and
a leader who has been passionate;
you heard his passion this morning,
and we're so fortunate to have him in this administration.
And Kathy, everyday I get to be with you is a great day.
As Kathy knows, we're working hand and glove together
to try to turn around the numbers
on hiring people with disabilities in our government.
We've just got to do better.
With Schedule A authority we can,
and we have started a new program
with people with severe disabilities.
We've hired a headhunting firm to go out and marry and match
skills with disabilities, with job interests of departments.
And it's only two months old, but we're dealing...
they're bringing us 50 candidates a month,
and they're getting hired, and that's great news.
Justice was the first hire, and there's a lot more to come.
So that goal of a 100,000, we're going to hit,
we're going to reach,
and hopefully, we're going to exceed.
As has already been commented,
I'd like to begin with just a few things
on these horrific attacks recently in New York
and the terrible rash of suicides by our youth,
who took that act because they were bullied or harassed,
whether they were gay or whether they were perceived to be gay.
These tragedies make our being out all the more important.
Being out at work,
out at home,
making sure everyone knows
that we are your coworkers, your neighbors, your friends.
And as someone who didn't come out until he was 25,
let me say how important it is
for our young people to feel that freedom.
As they are discovering themselves
and struggling with their sexuality,
everyone who is young does so,
we cannot demonstrate often enough
that, that famous quote
that Frank Kameny authored,
'Gay Is Good'.
Pride Month is important.
National Coming Out Day is important.
And events like this matter.
And so I really commend each of you for being here today.
We know that the ability to serve
and to assemble proudly and freely in the federal workplace,
as Kevin showed us,
has not come easily,
and we have many to thank for how far we've come.
In 1957, Frank Kameny, a World War II veteran,
who fought his way across Europe,
fighting fascists,
and a holder of a PhD in Astronomy from Harvard,
was fired from his civil service job solely because
of his sexual orientation.
Now, his fight made our careers possible, even if most of us,
as Kevin said, and myself included,
were not yet born.
In one letter to Frank,
an agency, my predecessor,
wrote that the government quote
"does not hire homosexuals
and will not permit their employment."
He went on to say
that the homosexual is automatically a security risk,
even though there's never been an incidence in U.S. history
where someone has violated their security clearance
because of their sexual orientation.
And quote
"that he frequently becomes a disruptive personnel factor
within any organization."
He probably got that last part right.
With the fervent passion of a true patriot,
Frank did not resign himself to his fate
or quietly endure this wrong.
Instead he fought back,
and after 20 years he achieved the goal he sought,
the repudiation of the government's policy
of formal and unfounded discrimination,
and is the author of 'Gay Is Good'.
That same spirit
burned in the hearts of patrons of the Stonewall Bar
that Kevin mentioned on a warm night in June, 41 years ago.
Laws against homosexuality
were often selectively enforced by police,
not to protect and defend,
but to terrorize and abuse an unpopular minority.
On one such raid or arrest,
gay and transgender patrons of the Stonewall Bar,
that same spark of liberty
that burned so brightly in Frank Kameny's chest
burst to bonfire life in New York City,
saying no to abuse,
no to harassment,
no to basic violations of human dignity,
proud Americans stood up,
fought back, and gave birth
to the National Movement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender Rights.
Now, I was only ten at the time,
but even a child could understand
what those patriots were fighting for.
This struggle follows the great American tradition
of fighting for equality,
begun when the Declaration of Independence spoke of truths
that all of us hold self-evident.
Make no mistake,
equality has never come easy.
We tend to look back at history through rose-colored glasses,
but who can forget the courage of Washington
and Jefferson and Franklyn
when many of their neighbors
would have cheered their hanging for treason.
Equality is not about polls;
it's about right and wrong.
I don't need a poll to tell me what was at stake in 1860.
But recall, half the country was wrong,
and they desperately defended the shackles of slavery,
using courts, secession,
and ultimately war
in an attempt to declare African-Americans as chattel
and three-fifths of a person.
Whether it was Susan B. Anthony,
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
or even children like the Little Rock Nine,
none, none were unanimously acclaimed or embraced
by all of the country.
Thankfully, thankfully, they were embraced by enough hearts,
with enough passion,
that together they could stand their ground with courage
and hope and carry the day for right,
for justice, and for liberty.
Today, mind sharp, hearts true,
and allies at our side,
I believe we will carry the day
in our fight for LGBT rights.
Now, much is said of the so-called gay agenda,
but our goals are simple
and they are universal,
that all American should be free to work
where their skills enable them,
free to share equally in every right,
as well as every responsibility
and burden of citizenship,
and free to love and pursue happiness,
no more and no less than our fellow Americans.
We are gathered here openly as LGBT federal employees
because of the door that Frank Kameny opened for us.
It is now our turn,
our privilege,
our sacred duty,
to continue this fight
and to open new doors for future generations,
and we are closer now than ever before in history.
Whether you look at the Hate Crimes Act,
the Ryan White,
the AIDS office that has been created,
the LGBT Elder office at HHS,
the highest number of LGBT appointees in history,
and I would argue,
the Health Care Act that was adopted
will be one of the signature acts
for people suffering with HIV/AIDS in our community
in the history of this country.
This administration gets it.
And those are just a few of the accomplishments,
but much, much remains undone.
And pray, as I do, for a middle ground,
finding it in our history.
It is often elusive
when liberty is at stake.
I come from a family with a very proud tradition of service.
My father enlisted in the Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor.
And he served in the first Marine Division at Guadalcanal.
My uncle, for whom I was named,
gave his life as a Marine fighter pilot
in the battle in the Pacific.
In the year before my dad died,
he told me,
you know, I don't know what all this fuss
about gays in the military is all about.
He said, you know, back then we didn't call them gays,
but they were there
and they died as bravely as anybody else.
I know my dad was right.
A very good friend of mine was a Colonel
who served honorably in the Middle East.
His sacrifice was no less dear than any of his colleagues.
I ask America,
where do you stand,
with honorable service
or with people who would have them lie to do so?
Honor and deceit cannot be squared
and that is why our President,
our Secretary of Defense,
and our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
have been crystal clear
that Congress must repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
The President summed it up I thought beautifully when he said
that this repeal will, and I quote,
"help make our Armed Forces even stronger
and more inclusive
by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers
to serve honestly and with integrity."
But the military is only one employer,
and because every member of our community
should have the right to work,
we cannot rest until we have an inclusive
employment non-discrimination act as the law of the land.
I believe that this is a critical juncture,
and why these suicides are so painful
is children today should really understand
the power of the moment of which we are living.
Frank and our forbearers brought us 18,000 feet up the mountain.
We are within view of the summit for the first time.
Frank is a dear friend.
He told me, he says, he feels a little bit like Moses.
He's lived to see the promised land,
he damn well wants to live to walk in it.
We're that close, we are that close, but don't kid yourself,
it's the last 1,000 feet of the mountain
that every climber knows are the toughest,
the air's the thinnest.
One wrong step can take you over the edge.
But we cannot forget
how far we've come
and how close we are,
and what an exciting time for all of us to be alive.
And we should draw faith that the tree of liberty
grows in only one direction, by adding rings.
It is my belief that it is that miraculous quality
that has produced the proud and sheltering and living tree
that we celebrate today,
that has withstood the lightning strikes of fascism
and the gale force winds of communism.
The rings of that tree are nourished by honesty and truth.
They are warmed by love and justice
and they are rooted in respect and dignity.
The battles won by Frank Kameny and the fight
by our forbearers at Stonewall were not isolated events.
They were in fact the birth of a new ring of life
on the American tree of liberty,
and we must not rest until that ring is secure,
not only for us, but for the children of the future,
and not only for America, but for the world,
because we only need look
to other shores at the darkness that creeps there
and how important our light and beacon
of courage and justice and liberty is
for all of the world.
Let me just end on a personal note.
My family,
as opposed to many of our conservative pundits,
has never known divorce.
My dad used to say, Berry's stick.
My first partner of ten years
died after a very protracted and grueling battle with AIDS,
that reduced a 6'2", 190 pound athlete,
to 90 pounds at his death.
Now, I was his primary caregiver throughout
and I held him in my arms as he died.
And I would have gladly traded my life for his that night,
just as I would do now for my current partner of 14 years,
if I was called to do so.
Now, I was blessed, very blessed,
by two incredibly supportive families
and a lot of wonderful friends who honored our relationship.
But if I hadn't have been,
I shudder to think,
because there is no power on this earth
that could have kept me from his side.
So again I ask America,
where do you stand,
honoring love as something that is precious,
wherever you find it,
and true, however you find it,
or with those who would deny or demean it?
I urge you.
I urge our country.
Stand where you can be proud.
Stand with service and truth.
Stand with love.
Stand for our promise
and our pledge,
and justice for all.
God bless you.
God bless our President.
And God bless the United States of America.