Platform of the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation


The March on Washington took place April 25, 1993
Washington, D.C.
source

Action Statement Preamble to the Platform

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender movement recognizes that our quest
for social justice fundamentally links us to the struggles against racism
and sexism, class bias, economic injustice and religious intolerance. We
must realize if one of us is oppressed we all are oppressed. The diversity of
our movement requires and compels us to stand in opposition to all forms of
oppression that diminish the quality of life for all people. We will be
vigilant in our determination to rid our movement and our society of all forms
of oppression and exploitation, so that all of us can develop to our full
human potential without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation,
identification, identity, gender and gender expression, ability, age or class.

THE MARCH DEMANDS

1. We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil
rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments
including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and other laws that
criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.
2. We demand massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research,
and patient care; universal access to health care including alternative
therapies; and an end to sexism in medical research and health care.
3. We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against Lesbians,
Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered people in the areas of family diver-
sity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of family
includes the full diversity of all family structures.
4. We demand full and equal inclusion of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and
Transgendered people in the educational system, and inclusion of Les-
bian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies in multicultural curricula.
5. We demand the right to reproductive freedom and choice, to control
our own bodies, and an end to sexist discrimination.
6. We demand an end to racial and ethnic discrimination in all forms.
7. We demand an end to discrimination and violent oppression based on
actual or perceived sexual orientation, identification, race, religion, iden-
tity, sex and gender expression, disability, age, class, AIDS/HIV infection.

Platform Demands and Related Items

1. We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender civil
rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments
including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and others laws that
criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.
  • Passage of “The Civil Rights Amendment Act of 1991” (HR 1430 & S574).
    Repeal of Department of Defense directive 1332.14.
  • Repeal of laws prohibiting sodomy, cross-gender expression (dress codes) or
    non-coercive sexual
    behavior between consenting adults.
  • Amendment of the Code of Federal Regulations to recognize same-sex
    relationships.
  • Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Implementation of, funding for and enforcement of the Americans with
    Disabilities Act of 1991.
  • Passage and implementation of graduated age-of-consent laws.
2. We demand massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research,
and patient care; universal access to health care including alternative
therapies; and an end to seism in medical research and health care.
  • The provision of responsive, appropriate health care for people with
    disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • Revision of the Centers for Disease Control definition of AIDS to include
    infections particular to women.
  • Implementation of the recommendation-of the National AIDS Comrnission
    immediately.
  • A massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research and care–money for
    AIDS, not for war.
    This money should come from the defense budget, not existing social services.
  • An increase in funding and research to provide an independent study of
    HIV infection in women, People of Color, Bisexuals, Heterosexuals, children,
    and women to women transmission.
  • Access to anonymous testing for HIV.
  • No mandatory HIV testing.
  • A cure for AIDS.
  • The development and legalization of a national needle exchange program.
  • Free substance abuse treatment on demand.
  • The redefinition of sexual reassignment surgeries as medical, not cosmetic,
    treatment.
  • The provision of appropriate medical treatment for all transgendered people in
    prisons and hospitals.
  • An increase in funding and research for chronic illness, including breast
    ovarian, and other cancers particular to women.
  • The right of all people with chronic illness, including HIV/AIDS, to choices
    in medical treatment as well as the right to end such treatment.
3. We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against Lesbians,
Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgendered people in the areas of family di-
versity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of
family includes the full diversity of all family structures.
  • The recognition and legal protection of whole range of family structures.
  • An end to abuse and exploitation of and discrimination against youth.
  • An end to abuse and exploitation of and discrimination against older/old people.
  • Full implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the
    Health and Human Services Task Force on Youth Suicide.
  • Recognition of domestic partnerships.
  • Legalization of same sex marriages.
4. We demand full and equal inclusion of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and
Transgendered people in the educational system, and inclusion of Les-
bian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender studies in multicultural curricula.
  • Culturally inclusive Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies program;
    and information on abortion, AIDS/HIV, childcare and sexuality at all levels
    of education.
  • Establishment of campus offices and programs to address Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
    and Transgender students special needs.
  • The ban of all discriminatory ROTC programs and recruiters from learning
    institutions.
  • An end to discrimination at all levels of education.
5. We demand the right to reproductive freedom and choice, to control our
own bodies, and an end to sexist discrimination.
  • The right to control our bodies.
  • Unrestricted, safe and affordable alternative insemination.
  • An end to sterilization abuse.
  • That access to safe and affordable abortion and contraception be available to
    all people on demand, without restriction and regardless of age.
  • That access to unbiased and complete information about the full range of
    reproductive options be available to all people, regardless of age.
6. We demand an end to racial and ethnic discrimination in all forms.
  • Support for non-racist policies and affirmative action.
  • An end to institutionalized racism.
  • Equal economic opportunity and an end to poverty.
  • Full reproductive rights, improvement of prenatal services, availability of
    alternative insemination for Lesbians and Bisexual women of color.
  • Repeal all ‘English Only’ laws and restore and enforce bilingual education.
  • Repeal all discriminatory immigration laws based on race and HIV status.
  • A commitment to ending racism, including internalized racism, sexism and all
    forms of religious and ethnic oppression in our communities and in this country.
  • An end to the genocide of all the indigenous peoples and their cultures
  • Restoration of the self-determination of all indigenous people of the world.
7. We demand an end to discrimination and violent oppresion based on
actual or perceived sexual orientation/identification, race, religion,
identity, sex and gender expression, disability, age, class, AIDS/HIV infection.
  • An end to anti-Semitism.
  • An end to sexist oppression.
  • An end to discrimination against people with disabilities, deaf and hard of
    hearing people.
  • An end to discrimination based on sexual orientation in all programs of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • An end to economic injustice in this country and internationally.
  • An end to discrimination against prisoners with HIV/AIDS.
  • An end to discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, and those perceived as
    having HIV/AIDS.
  • An end to consideration of gender dysphoria as a psychiatric disorder.
  • An end to hate crimes including police brutality, rape and bashing.
    An end to censorship.
Advertisements

Speech to the March on Washington


by Urvashi Vaid
April 25, 1993
March on Washington
(source)

Hello lesbian and gay Americans. I am proud to stand before you as a lesbian today. With hearts full of love and the abiding faith in justice, we have come to Washington to speak to America. We have come to speak the truth of our lives and silence the liars. We have come to challenge the cowardly Congress to end its paralysis and exercise moral leadership. We have come to defend our honor and win our equality. But most of all we have come in peace and with courage to say, “America, this day marks the end from exile of the gay and lesbian people. We are banished no more. We wander the wilderness of despair no more. We are afraid no more. For on this day, with love in our hearts, we have come out, and we have come out across America to build a bridge of understanding, a bridge of progress, a bridge as solid as steel, a bridge to a land where no one suffers prejudice because of their sexual orientation, their race, their gender, their religion, or their human difference.”

I have been asked by the March organizers to speak in five minutes about the far right, the far right which threatens the construction of that bridge. The extreme right which has targeted everyone of you and me for extinction. The supremacist right which seeks to redefine the very meaning of democracy. Language itself fails in this task, my friends, for to call our opponents “The Right,” states a profound untruth. They are wrong – they are wrong morally, they are wrong spiritually, and they are wrong politically.

The Christian supremacists are wrong spiritually when they demonize us. They are wrong when they reduce the complexity and beauty of our spirit into a freak show. They are wrong spiritually, because, if we are the untouchables of America — if we are the untouchables — then we are, as Mahatma Gandhi said, children of God. And as God’s children we know that the gods of our understanding, the gods of goodness and love and righteousness, march right here with us today.

The supremacists who lead the anti-gay crusade are wrong morally. They are wrong because justice is moral, and prejudice is evil; because truth is moral and the lie of the closet is the real sin; because the claim of morality is a subtle sort of subterfuge, a stratagem which hides the real aim which is much more secular. Christian supremacist leaders like Bill Bennett and Pat Robertson, Lou Sheldon and Pat Buchanan, supremacists like Phyllis Schlafley, Ralph Reid, Bill Bristol, R.J., Rushoodie — the supremacists don’t care about morality, they care about power. They care about social control. And their goal, my friends, is the reconstruction of American Democracy into American Theocracy.

We who are gathered here today must prove the religious right wrong politically and we can do it. That is our challenge. You know they have made us into the communists of the nineties. And they say they have declared cultural war against us. It’s war all right. It’s a war about values. On one side are the values that everyone here stands for. Do you know what those values are? Traditional American values of democracy and pluralism. On the other side are those who want to turn the Christian church in government, those whose value is monotheism.

We believe in democracy, in many voices co-existing in peace, and people of all faiths living together in harmony under a common civil framework known as the United States Constitution. Our opponents believe in monotheism. One way, theirs. One god, theirs. One law, the Old Testament. One nation supreme, the Christian Right one. Let’s name it. Democracy battles theism in Oregon, in Colorado, in Florida, in Maine, in Arizona, in Michigan, in Ohio, in Idaho, in Washington, in Montana, in every state where , my brothers and sisters, are leading the fight to oppose the Right and to defend the United States Constitution. We won the anti-gay measure in Oregon, but today 33 counties — 33 counties and municipalities face local versions of that ordinance today. The fight has just begun. We lost the big fight in Colorado, but, thanks to the hard work of all the people of Colorado, the Boycott Colorado movement is working and we are strong. And we are going to win our freedom there eventually.

To defeat the Right politically, my friends, is our challenge when we leave this March. How can we do it? We’ve got to march from Washington into action at home. I challenge everyone of you, straight or gay, who can hear my voice, to join the national gay and lesbian movement. I challenge you to join NGLTF to fight the Right. We have got to match the power of the Christian supremacists, member for member, vote for vote, dollar for dollar. I challenge each of you, not just buy a T-shirt, but get involved in your movement. Get involved! Volunteer! Volunteer! Every local organization in this country needs you. Every clinic, every hotline, every youth program needs you, needs your time and your love.

And I also challenge our straight liberal allies, liberals and libertarians, independent and conservative, republican or radical. I challenge and invite you to open your eyes and embrace us without fear. The gay rights movement is not a party. It is not lifestyle. It is not a hair style. It is not a fad or a fringe or a sickness. It is not about sin or salvation. The gay rights movement is an integral part of the American promise of freedom.

We, you and I, each of us, we are the descendants of a proud tradition of people asserting our dignity. It is fitting that the Holocaust Museum was dedicated the same weekend as this March, for not only were gay people persecuted by the Nazi state, but gay people are indebted to the struggle of the Jewish people against bigotry and intolerance. It is fitting that the NAACP marches with us, that feminist leaders march with us, because we are indebted to those movements.

When all of us who believe in freedom and diversity see this gathering, we see beauty and power. When our enemies see this gathering, they see the millennium. Perhaps the Right is right about something. We call for the end of the world as we know it. We call for the end of racism and sexism and bigotry as we know it. For the end of violence and discrimination and homophobia as we know it. For the end of sexism as we know it. We stand for freedom as we have yet to know it, and we will not be denied.

Speech to the March on Washington


by Lani Ka’ahumanu
Washington, D.C.
April 25, 1993
Lani is co-founder of the Bay Area Bisexual Network
(source)

Aloha, my name is Lani Ka’ahumanu,
and it ain’t over til the bisexual speaks…

I am a token, and a symbol.
Today there is no difference.
I am the token out bisexual asked to speak, and
I am a symbol of how powerful the bisexual pride movement is
and how far we have come.

I came here in 1979
for the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

I returned in 1987
for the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

I stand here today
on the stage
of the 1993 March on Washington
for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual
Equal Rights and Liberation.

In 1987 I wrote an article on bisexuality
for the Civil Disobedience Handbook
titled, “Are we visible yet?”

Bisexual activists
organized on the local, regional and national levels
to make this March a reality.

Are bisexuals visible yet?
Are bisexuals organized yet?
Are bisexuals accountable yet?

You bet your sweet ass we are!

Bisexuals are here,
and we’re queer.

Bisexual pride
speaks to the truth
of behavior and identity.

No simple either/or divisions
fluid – ambiguous – subversive
bisexual pride challenges both
the heterosexual and the homosexual assumption.

Society is based
on the denial of diversity,
on the denial of complexity.

Like multiculturalism,
mixed heritage and bi-racial relationships,
both the bisexual and transgender movements
expose and politicize the middle ground.

Each show there is no separation,
that each and everyone of us
is part of a fluid social, sexual and gender dynamic.

Each signals a change, a fundamental change
in the way our society is organized.

Remember today.

Remember we are family,
and like a large extended family,
we don’t always agree, don’t always see eye to eye.

However, as a family under attack
we must recognize the importance of what
each and every one of us brings to our movement.

There is strength in our numbers and diversity.
We are every race, class, culture, age, ability,
religion, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Our visibility is a sign of revolt.

Recognition of bisexual orientation and transgender issues
presents a challenge to assumptions
not previously explored
within the politics
of gay liberation.

What will it take
for the gayristocracy to realize
that bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and gay people
are in this together,
and together
we can and will
move the agenda forward.

But this will not happen
until public recognition
of our common issues is made,
and a sincere effort to confront
biphobia and transphobia is made
by the established gay and lesbian leadership
in this country.

The broader movement for our civil rights and liberation
is being held back.

Who gains when we ostracize whole parts of our family?
Who gains from exclusionary politics?

Certainly not us…

Being treated as if I am less oppressed than thou
is not only insulting,
it feeds right in to the hands
of the right wing fundamentalists
who see all of us as queer.

What is the difficulty
in seeing how my struggle
as a mixed race bisexual woman of color
is intimately related to the bigger struggle
for lesbian and gay rights
the rights of people of color and
the rights of all women?

What is the problem?

This is not a competition.

I will not play by rules
that pit me against any oppressed group.

Has the gayristocracy
bought so far in to the either/or structure,
invested so much in being
the opposite of heterosexual
that they cannot remove themselves
that they can’t imagine being free
of the whole oppressive heterosexist system
that keeps us all down?

Bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people
who are out of the closet,
who are not passing
for anything other than who and what we are
all have our necks and our lives on the line.

All our visibility is a sign of revolt.

Bisexuals are here to challenge the bigots
who have denied lesbian, gay and bisexual people
basic civil rights in Colorado.

Yes, Amendment 2 includes bisexual orientation.

Yes, the religious right recognizes bisexuals
as a threat to “so called” family values.

Bisexuals are here to protest
the military ban against lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Yes, the Department of Defense defines bisexuals separately
as a reason to be dishonorably discharged.

And yes, out bisexuals are not allowed
to be foster or adoptive parents,

And yes, we lose our jobs, our children, get beaten and killed
for loving women and for loving men.

Bisexuals are queer, just as queer as queer can be.

Each of us here today
represents many people
who could not make the trip.

Our civil rights and liberation movement
has reached critical mass.

Remember today.

Remember that we are more powerful
than all the hate, ignorance and violence
directed at us.

Remember what a profound difference
our visibility makes
upon the world in which we live.

The momentum of this day
can carry us
well into the 21st century
if we come out where ever and when ever we can.

Remember assimilation is a lie.
It is spiritual erasure.

I want to challenge those lesbian and gay leaders
who have come out to me privately over the years
as bisexual to take the next step, come out now.

What is the sexual liberation movement about
if not about the freedom to love whom we choose?

I want to encourage bisexuals
in the lesbian, gay and heterosexual communities
to come out now.

Remember there is nothing wrong with love.
Defend the freedom to express it.

Our visibility is a sign of revolt.
We cannot be stopped. We are everywhere.
We are bisexual, lesbian, gay and transgender people.

We will not rest
until we are all free;

We will not rest
until our basic human rights
are protected under federal law;

We will not rest
until our relationships and families
are not just tolerated
but recognized, respected and valued;

We will not rest
until we have a national health care system;

We will not rest
until there are cures for AIDS and cancer.

We deserve nothing less.

Remember we have every right
to be in the world
exactly as we are.

Celebrate that simply and fiercely.

I love you.

Mahalo and aloha.

How I spent my Two Week Vacation Being a Token Bisexual


by Lani Ka’ahumanu
This is a reflection on the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.
It was published in Anything That Moves
(source)

So there I was in the 1993 March on Washington media office in Washington DC six days before the big event working the phones and lending a bisexual presence. The five phones rang non-stop, “March on Washington media office. Hello my name is Lani.” The publisher of a small local DC paper called. He wanted to do a story paralleling the Martin Luther King March and this one. He wanted to make the connections clear so his community would come and join the march. “It’s the same for all of us,” he said, “basic civil rights.” “Yep, that’s right,” I said, “30 years later we have the same dream.” There were two to four of us at any one point fielding questions from local, national and international television and radio stations, the print media, as well as reporters of all stripes wanting interviews, press passes and faxing us their credentials. The NAACP and the White House called a few times too.

The pace was fast and furious, the mood was campy and cooperative, the setting was cramped, lacking air and windows. There was a sense of history being made. The Today Show, Good Morning America, Tokyo Television, Italian TV, the New York Times, Miami Herald Tribune, LA Times, SF Examiner, USA TODAY, and the Village Voice to name just a few who called. Everyone was looking for an angle on this civil rights march. This was not being covered as a parade or celebration. The tone was more serious.

A national gay writer who was working for a big city paper was interested in interviewing one of the speakers. “Well guess what,” I said, “I just happen to be on the main stage.” “Perfect.” he said. So I tell him I’m the token bisexual speaker and the last one of the day. He laughs when I tell him the name of my speech, “It ain’t over til the bisexual speaks.” And is hooked by the Farajaje-Jones term “gayristocracy.” He asks great questions, we talked and then there was a long pause. “This is really interesting. Maybe I should do a story for the Village Voice on bisexuality.” He asks for my home number and there is another long silence. Then says, “Well, I’d like to talk with you sometime. I’ve been having sex with all my lesbian friends and I don’t know who to talk to about it.” I encouraged him to call.

Everyday that week as new people arrived someone would introduce me as Lani Ka’ahumanu the bisexual speaker. I wasn’t being “shown off” exactly but sometimes the tokenism grated my nerves. Being the only visible one of anything is taxing and isolating. By the end of each day I wanted good ol’ bisexual company. Thank goodness there were so many bisexuals around and a BiNET USA meeting and a National Conference on Bisexuality and dance on Saturday. I was well nourished.

By the time Sunday arrived I was ready. I had worked hard and thought about this day for two months. When I pictured myself talking in front of TV cameras and a million people I rode the adrenaline rushes like a surfer catches a wave. My biggest and most surprising breakthrough came while working on my speech. I cranked up some “writing” music — Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park. As I went to my desk thinking about being on stage the speakers filled my office with thousands of people cheering and clapping at the Central Park Concert. At that moment I experienced a level of terror that made my body shiver. I stopped in my tracks and began to cry. I cried for a very long time and then started laughing. What a perfect way to get over the fear of being in front of so many people! I played the crowd noise over and over until the adrenaline subsided.

I thought about the first National Bisexual Conference in 1990. How we applauded loudly when BiPOL’s Autumn Courtney proclaimed the nineties as the “decade of the bisexual.” The vision of our bisexual community and movement becoming a viable and respected player at the larger queer community table was within our reach. Who would have guessed that we would have secured national recognition less than two years later? But there we were in January, 1992, demanding that bisexual rights be recognized in the title of the 1993 March on Washington. Our time had definitely arrived. Many of us took leadership positions on the national, regional, and local levels for organizing the March.

A quiet sense of pride filled me the morning of April 25th. We made it. There we were in the front of the March carrying the banner, performing on the morning stage, and marching loud, proud and visible with almost every group. And there we were over 1,000 strong in the bisexual contingent! And there we were visible on the gigantic trinitron screens projecting the afternoon stage activities with the “1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation” title emblazoned across the top. And yes, there we were on the afternoon stage.

I say “we” were on the afternoon stage because we were. I did not feel alone up there for a minute. I can’t quite explain it, but you all were with me. For the entire day I felt I was speaking for more than myself. There was a definite sense of bistory in the making as I networked and challenged the biphobia, and reminded forgetful MCs and speakers that it was the lesbian gay and bisexual March on Wahsington, and appreciated those who said bisexual through out their speeches. I was very conscious of wanting to represent “us” as best as one person possibly could. Whenever I felt intimidated I just remembered how many strong and proud bisexual people I have had the opportunity of meeting here in the USA and in Europe in the last few years. I also knew there were thousands of bisexuals out there marching in huge numbers making a different kind of statement to the world. I felt proud and honored to be representing the bisexual community and movement and didn’t want to waste a moment of the precious time spent backstage. Loraine Hutchins with her bisexual pride t-shirt flashing stood out in this crowd. We consulted, commiserated and strategized all afternoon about how best to use the time accessing the media and the lesbian and gay leaders who were backstage. We worked that crowd for all it was worth.

Because unscheduled speakers were given time throughout the day, the stage ran an hour late. As the last speaker of the day my 5:30 p.m. slot came up around 6:45 p.m. Quite honestly by the end of the day I was emotionally exhausted and bruised from the general lack of respect, the tokenism, the invisibility of bisexual people and our issues and the division(ary) speeches given by many if not most of the lesbian and gay leaders. I was in no mood to be told 10 minutes before I was to go on that time was running out and the park service was threatening to turn off the sound at 7 p.m. One of the Co-Chairs told me that they were asking everyone to shorten their time to two minutes in order to get everyone who was scheduled onto the stage.

Something inside of me snapped when I heard this. I have always been willing to compromise, see both sides of an issue, build alliances, work things out. I have never been a very pushy, or disruptive in-your-face type of an activist/organizer. But honey did I turn a corner that day! I made it crystal clear that if there hadn’t been blatant biphobia coming from the stage, as well as from behind the stage all day, and if everyone would have done their homework and remembered that it was indeed the lesbian, gay and bisexual March on Washington, and if I wasn’t the only bisexual speaker out of the 18 chosen I would consider it in a heartbeat. After all I had been a producer and I understood the situation they were in, however editing my speech to two minutes was completely out of the question. A very brief discussion ensued regarding quality and quantity which I felt was ridiculous when we were talking five minutes vs. two minutes. In the end I agreed to look over my speech and edit, but not to two minutes. I knew my speech was a little more than five minutes so it seemed only fair to do this. As I walked out of the trailer the look on my face was not lost on Nadine Smith one of the other Co-Chairs who had been a consistent bisexual ally. She asked what had happened. I told her the situation. Her immediate reply was, “That isn’t right. Let me see what I can do.” A sense of injustice filled me with a focused fierceness in way I had never experienced before in my life. I would not be stopped, period. Loraine and Dannielle [my daughter] and Katherin came over to see what was wrong. “How dare they pull this on us!,” I said.

Less than a minute later someone said, “You’re on.” I hadn’t looked over my speech to begin the edit, but it didn’t matter. This was it. I felt strong and clear and angry as I walked through the security check points before the long ascent to the stage. “Lani Ka’ahumanu?” “Yes,” I said, “Lani Ka’ahumanu.” With each step my determination grew stronger. “Lani Ka’ahumanu?” “Lani Ka’ahumanu.” With each step I was filled with a powerful sense of love for bisexual people, for our courage and bravery, for the visible and viable bisexual community we have built, and for the strong bisexual pride movement we have organized. Oh no, I did not feel alone up there at all.

By the time I got to the top of the stairs and walked to edge of the backstage I was over it. Nothing was going to stop me, nothing, not even the stage co-producer Robin Tyler who literally got on her knees and asked me to make my speech two minutes. (What a lost photo opportunity!) I looked around and unexpectedly saw two familiar and friendly faces. Robin and I went over the two sentence introduction I had written earlier in the day. I had to edit one out. She liked one, but I wanted the other because it was more radical. It mentioned I had been a housewife and activist in the 60s, a public lesbian mother in the 70s and an out of the closet bisexual since 1980.

The very instant the group Menage finished singing, I walked to the podium as Robin introduced me. What a moment, there were hundreds of thousands of people as far as I could see to the Washington Monument and television cameras too numerous to count set up on a platform. I took a deep breath and said… [Read the speech here]

State of the Movement


by Rea Carey (NGLTF Executive Director)
Delivered at the 22nd Annual Creating Change Conference
Dallas, TX
February 5, 2010
Full video in 4 parts at bottom of page
(source)

A year ago, when we came together, we were digesting a couple of high-profile losses but at the same time we were filled with hope, our minds filled with possibility and promise.

Our sweat, votes, money and work had helped elect a new president and a more pro-LGBT Congress and finally it seemed we would be building a solid floor of legal equality from which we could reach the sky of freedom.

The Bush-Cheney years were behind us. Change was coming. It was no longer a question of “if” but“when.”

And for those of us who had been fighting for so long — and that’s every one of us in this room and millions of others not with us here today — “when” was sounding pretty good.

We believed…and why shouldn’t we?

He said, “I’m running for president to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all — a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters.”

We believed.

He said, “It’s wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation … I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans.”

We agreed. We were eager to see what a “fierce advocate” could do.

But now, it’s a year into this new administration, a year into this new Congress. There have been glimmers of the advocate, but certainly not fierceness.

Speeches aren’t change, change is more than words; change is action.

If we really are all created equal…if it really doesn’t matter who we are or what we look like…or who we love…then it’s time this president and this Congress take concrete steps to ensuring that equality.

And since the president and Congress brought up the topic of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the last week, let’s start there. If the administration does, in fact, implement soon what it now states it can do under existing law, the lives of thousands of service members will begin to improve and the witch hunts will end. And, I thank the president for showing leadership in taking these steps. But, let me be clear, a yearlong study does not a fierce advocate make. A year is too long to wait and it’s time the president use the executive branch to stop these discharges now while the military and Congress move to bring this shameful and discriminatory chapter in U.S. history to an end.

Mister President, the ball’s in your court. You have the opportunity to go down in history as one of the few presidents who acted decisively to move human rights forward. Now, while we have criticized the president, we must hold equally if not more accountable the members of Congress who stand in the way of legal equality. Their hands are not clean.

I’ve been out and gay in America for 27 years, since I was a teenager. I know change doesn’t happen fast. But happen it must.

We’re in two wars, facing an economic crisis, we’re attending to health care reform, there’s climate change…things take time we’re told…look at the calendar, we’ll get to you.

Well first, I say, those issues concern us too, and I am looking at the calendar…and it’s 2010.

2010.

Should freedom have to wait any longer?

Should equality be something we schedule? Should we only act to end blatant discrimination when it’s politically convenient?

No.

That’s why we’ve come together this weekend.

Because the change we seek must come from us, from our strategic work together. We thought we were finally going to have leadership that would stand with us, work with us and for us…but that hasn’t fully happened yet, and so it’s still up to us to push, and in fact, to lead.

We are agents of change. We have the power to compel change.

And while this struggle for change has become a political struggle, one used to divide people and turn groups in our country against each other…to rally electoral and political favor…if you step outside this entrenched political battle…at its most basic, this is about our humanity, our equality and the integrity of the country.

And when it comes to equality, full equality, you either have it or you don’t.

And we don’t.

Last June, we asked people to send us letters that we then delivered to the president, and when a schoolteacher wrote that she has to hide the fact she has a partner and two kids, and that she could lose her job if anyone finds out, she is not equal. We are not equal.

Equality is a moral imperative…because who we are and whom we love should not be the subject of political debate, should not be put to the political whim of voters and our lives should not be on trial.

There can be no compromise on civil rights, no piecemeal human rights.

These rights must exist unabridged and we stand with all those who seek the promise of equality and who still struggle for its fulfillment.

And I suggest, to those who say don’t push so hard, just wait — that sounds like advice from someone already enjoying the benefits of equality. Someone who can marry who they want; someone who can serve their country freely; someone who can enter a nursing home without having to go back into the closet; someone who doesn’t have to face the indignities of filling out form after form, deciding if they will cross off “mother” or “father” and write in a new word just to reflect the reality of our families.

I know the pain of how this invisibility affects our children.

And to that person asking us to wait? A little reminder — there is no such thing as being just a little equal.

What has gotten lost in Washington and communities across the nation is that this is not a political question.

This is a moral question.

Justice and freedom are not just American promises or LGBT promises, they are human rights.

And when the president says he is committed to equal rights and Congress takes an oath to uphold the founding principles of our nation — that doesn’t mean some rights, that means all rights.

Non-negotiable.

It’s 2010. We’ve waited long enough.

And if we don’t leave here this weekend, together, pushing, focused on real change, last year’s “when” will become “if” once again…

Compelling change to happen is, as it has always been, up to us.

And, honestly, I take faith in that…because I’ve seen what we can do when we’re together…when we dedicate ourselves…when we decide we’re not going to settle for anything other than what we deserve.

So, while we wait for action — for the president to move beyond words and into bold actions and for Congress to find its moral compass — we’re going to keep pushing and keep working, and much of this change will happen in our own cities and states.

The work’s not easy. It takes sacrifice both personally and for our families. We in this room know that. We’ve seen long days…long nights. And while at the end of those days, there will be wins and losses. Regardless, we keep moving forward. We keep working together. We keep gaining more support and we keep getting stronger.

No matter what happens along the way, the dignity of our lives will not be denied.

That’s what the pundits missed in their post-election discussion and analysis of Maine. That one ballot measure wasn’t a reflection on our movement or our goals. Maine wasn’t definitive or a turning of the tide any more than it turns out California was. Do our losses hurt — particularly for families in Maine, California and elsewhere? Absolutely. Does it mean we are giving up, allowing a temporary loss to stand in the way of history? Absolutely not.

This last year, we gained marriage equality in Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. We successfully fought back attempts to roll back protections in places like Gainesville and Kalamazoo. And in cities large and small, like Salt Lake City and Redding, Pa., we ensured nondiscrimination protections for thousands more.

Our grassroots support is strong and growing. Our progress on the local and state levels is definitively forward not backward.

And mark my words: We will regain marriage in California and Maine.

My grandmother has had a magnet on her refrigerator for as long as I can remember and I keep a copy in my wallet. It says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” Well into her 90s, this philosophy has served her well and our movement too.

We’ve seen that when we come together, when we focus, when we roll up our sleeves and dig in…

We create change.

In the past decade, through our work together —
The number of states recognizing same-sex relationships increased from two to 11 plus the District of Columbia.
The number of states outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation increased from 11 to 21.
The number of states outlawing discrimination based on gender identity and expression jumped from just one state to 13.
And, we have elected hundreds of pro-LGBT candidates and defeated those who are not our friends.

And in just this past year, through our work together:
We finally passed and got signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which for the first time in our nation’s history explicitly covers lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in federal law.
And, through the advocacy of our New Beginning federal policy project, a collaboration of 20 organizations, we have already made tangible federal policy changes that will improve the lives of LGBT people, including seniors, people with low incomes and transgender people, and we have ensured that our marriages and partnerships will be counted and reported in the 2010 census.

This is what can happen, what does happen, when we work together, when we push together.

This year, I have been reminded again and again that our real inspiration must come from each other.

That’s who keeps us pushing, who enables us to get up day after day and keep working, that’s who truly inspires us and keeps us going…

It’s the transgender high-school student who goes to school every day dressed as she wants, no matter what is said, no matter what fingers are pointed; it’s the soldier, determined to fulfill his or her dream, and whose love for our country is greater than our country’s love for them; it’s the parents of those killed by hate who have committed their lives to stopping violence from happening in the first place; it’s the gay man working against racial profiling; and it is the straight neighbor who walks side by side with us in the streets of protest.

These are our heroes. These are my heroes.

For those of you who look at the last year and are angry, to those who are frustrated by the pace of change and the circuitous route it has traveled…

I say — So am I.

But that anger, unless channeled, will not bring change.

Nor will that frustration, unless redirected, move us forward.

That frustration, turned upon each other, is simply destructive. And may I suggest that’s exactly what our opponents want. They want us distracted and downtrodden. They want us splintered, sniping and arguing that one tactic will save the day over all the others. They want us disorganized, working separately and second-guessing ourselves.

Our opponents have seen what we can accomplish, united. And, it scares them.

And that’s why this year we will not ask for change, we won’t debate change, we won’t plan for change, we will not wait for change — we’ll create change.

There will be a day when people will wonder how our rights were even an issue. What was the big deal?

This state of inequality cannot be our children or grandchildren’s inheritance.

That means stepping up and answering the call that this moment in history offers.

We have an opportunity to lead. It’s up to us to define what must happen next, what will happen next.

If we do not step up with an expansive view of what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, if we don’t explain that being LGB or T is simply being human, we will be making a mistake.

Whose calling is that if not ours?

An agenda? Yes, I have an agenda.

Certainly, let’s fight the legislative battles including…

Let’s end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, pass both an inclusive employment nondiscrimination act and the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act for federal employees…and…state by state enact anti-bullying legislation to protect LGBT youth.

But let’s not be defined by those battles solely. Let’s not be limited to those ways of defining our lives. We can’t let others see us as just these issues.

That others see our struggle as more…as a movement for justice, equality and liberation…as a movement for human rights…is critical to our success.

And so as we step into this new year, let’s lead, really lead.

As of today, fortunately, there are no places that face an imminent threat of state or local anti-marriage or anti-LGBT discrimination ballot measures this year. However, if they come up, we will be there. And yet, with a Ward Connerly-backed ban on affirmative action on the November ballot in Arizona and the likelihood of a parental notification initiative on the ballot in California, and potential anti-immigrant measures, we must be at the ready to step up and work on these issues that affect our community as well.

Let us work for meaningful health care reform that protects LGBT people.

Let us stand with fair-minded people in Uganda to fight off homophobic laws and expand the global movement for freedom by working to add co-sponsors to the resolutions introduced just this week in the U.S House and Senate.

Our voices need to be heard in these fights and on these issues but not just on these issues. We must lead on all issues that affect our lives.

Take immigration.

If we are truly a community and a movement committed to freedom, justice and equality then reforming our nation’s cruel and broken immigration system must be on our agenda for action.

Today, there are 12 million immigrants, including at least half a million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are forced to live in the shadows of our society.

They are people like Harold, an 18-year-old gay man who came to this country from the Philippines with his parents when he was five years old. This is really the only country he has ever known. But today, because he is undocumented, he cannot get a driver’s license, cannot get a job, cannot get a student loan, and is in constant fear of being arrested and deported to a country where he has no connections, no prospects and where he cannot speak the language.

They are people like Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman who was swept up by the immigration system, put into a detention jail where she was denied HIV medications and medical attention, even when she was vomiting blood. This cost Victoria her life. She died, chained to a hospital bed with two immigration guards at the door.

And, of course, there are at least 36,000 binational couples who cannot live together here in this country because federal law bans recognition of their relationships.

So, yes, immigration reform is an LGBT issue.

At some point, the president and Congress will take up immigration reform. This fight will make the push for healthcare reform look like a walk in the park. It will involve incredibly hard choices, but let’s be clear: We will stand by our allies in the immigration reform movement come what may.

We need to make this next decade the decade our nation realized that we face far greater issues than who someone loves and wants to marry; that our strength as a people is weakened and lessened when we fight each other rather than the social, economic, environmental and global concerns that face us all.

The LGBT community is talented. We are skilled, we are creative, we are ready to contribute to a vision of inclusiveness and to a transformed society.

And if ever there was a time when we needed to work together, as one people, it is now. And believe it or not, there are still thousands of people who don’t know anything about our lives, to whom we are invisible.

So let’s start right now to create some change.

Please take out a piece of paper or your handheld.
Write down or type these things:
At the top, write “My Life”
Below that, write:
Talk
Write
Meet

Now, as LGBT people and straight allies, I want us all to commit to taking three actions, every month, for the next year.

Each month, talk — talk to a neighbor, co-worker or family member about an issue that affects your life.

Each month, write — write a letter to the editor, write a blog, write on your Facebook page about an issue that affects your life.

Each month, meet — meet with your elected officials, meet with local nonprofits, meet with community leaders about an issue that affects your life.

When you get home, tape this up on your mirror or fridge with all of your other affirmations and reminders. Or keep your text in a handy place.

If all of us, just at this conference, commit to this, we will have taken 72,000 actions to move forward the visibility of our lives, to engage and to advocate. I follow some of you on Twitter, I am friends with you on Facebook, I know how far our reach is. And that isn’t even counting the people watching this on C-SPAN.

But that’s what we have to do. We have to take advantage of every available opportunity to push forward.

We will create change.

Last year, the right-wing organization Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (and believe me, there isn’t a whole lot of truth there) used a quote from my annual speech here at Creating Change in one of its fundraising letters. Like good activists, we turned around and used its letter in our fundraising efforts. Well, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, here is your money quote this year: “We are still recruiting! We are recruiting a movement of people who care about freedom, justice and equality. And we will not stop until all people can live their lives without fear of persecution, prosecution or attack because of who they are or who they love. We are still recruiting!”

For 37 years, the Task Force has been at the forefront of change and that’s exactly where we plan to stay. And we want you there with us. As change agents, we want the Task Force to be your home.

For those of you who spend your days in public service — working for change as local, state and federal government employees — you are home!

For those of you who take action through blogs, social networking, or tweets, you are home!

For those of you who were in Act Up, Queer Nation, or take to the streets today…you are home!

For those of you who remember Stonewall because you lived it — you are home!

For those of you who like Elton John and Lady Gaga — truly one of the queerest moments in TV history…you are home.

For those of you who have the courage to proudly practice your faith, to take back your faith — a faith that may have rejected you or others…you are home.

And, for those of you who are straight and who see yourselves in the fight for LGBT equality and justice…you are home.

The Task Force has never been homogenous — we are diverse, dynamic and passionate — and because of that we’ve not always agreed with each other. But, together we always compel this country to pay attention to our lives. We always compel others to evolve toward fairness.

And that’s what we’re going to keep doing.

Let us inspire each other to lead, to create a society where equality is unconditional, where the acceptance of diversity is not a goal but a given, and where the concern is not who we love but that we love. Let’s create change!

Full Video:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Speech to the 2008 HRC Dinner in Houston


By Judy Shepard
Annual HRC dinner
Huston, TX
April 16, 2008

A quote from the speech:

I remember having a discussion with him in the summer of ’98 and he was talking about the marriage initiative in Hawaii, and he said, “Do you think that we will ever be allowed to marry?” And I said, “Not in my lifetime, but I’m sure in your lifetime it will happen. Things are changing very quickly.” Ironically it turned out to be in my lifetime and not his.

Remarks by the President at the Human Rights Campaign Dinner


by Barack Obama
Walter E. Convention Center
Washington, D.C.
October 10, 2009

8:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Please, you’re making me blush. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Barack!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.)

To Joe Solmonese, who’s doing an outstanding job on behalf of HRC. (Applause.) To my great friend and supporter, Terry Bean, co-founder of HRC. (Applause.) Representative Patrick Kennedy. (Applause.) David Huebner, the Ambassador-designee to New Zealand and Samoa. (Applause.) John Berry, our Director of OPM, who’s doing a great job. (Applause.) Nancy Sutley, Chairman of Council on Environmental Quality. (Applause.) Fred Hochberg, Chairman of Export-Import Bank. (Applause.) And my dear friend, Tipper Gore, who’s in the house. (Applause.)

Thank you so much, all of you. It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady GaGa. (Applause.) I’ve made it. (Laughter.) I want to thank the Human Rights Campaign for inviting me to speak and for the work you do every day in pursuit of equality on behalf of the millions of people in this country who work hard in their jobs and care deeply about their families — and who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. (Applause.)

For nearly 30 years, you’ve advocated on behalf of those without a voice. That’s not easy. For despite the real gains that we’ve made, there’s still laws to change and there’s still hearts to open. There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors, even loved ones — good and decent people — who hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted. And that’s painful and it’s heartbreaking. (Applause.) And yet you continue, leading by the force of the arguments you make, and by the power of the example that you set in your own lives — as parents and friends, as PTA members and church members, as advocates and leaders in your communities. And you’re making a difference.

That’s the story of the movement for fairness and equality, and not just for those who are gay, but for all those in our history who’ve been denied the rights and responsibilities of citizenship — (applause) — for all who’ve been told that the full blessings and opportunities of this country were closed to them. It’s the story of progress sought by those with little influence or power; by men and women who brought about change through quiet, personal acts of compassion — and defiance — wherever and whenever they could.

It’s the story of the Stonewall protests, when a group of citizens — (applause) — when a group of citizens with few options, and fewer supporters stood up against discrimination and helped to inspire a movement. It’s the story of an epidemic that decimated a community — and the gay men and women who came to support one another and save one another; who continue to fight this scourge; and who have demonstrated before the world that different kinds of families can show the same compassion in a time of need. (Applause.) And it’s the story of the Human Rights Campaign and the fights you’ve fought for nearly 30 years: helping to elect candidates who share your values; standing against those who would enshrine discrimination into our Constitution; advocating on behalf of those living with HIV/AIDS; and fighting for progress in our capital and across America. (Applause.)

This story, this fight continue now. And I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight. (Applause.) For even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot — and we will not — put aside issues of basic equality. I greatly appreciate the support I’ve received from many in this room. I also appreciate that many of you don’t believe progress has come fast enough. I want to be honest about that, because it’s important to be honest among friends.

Now, I’ve said this before, I’ll repeat it again — it’s not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans petitioning for equal rights half a century ago. (Applause.) But I will say this: We have made progress and we will make more. And I think it’s important to remember that there is not a single issue that my administration deals with on a daily basis that does not touch on the lives of the LGBT community. (Applause.) We all have a stake in reviving this economy. We all have a stake in putting people back to work. We all have a stake in improving our schools and achieving quality, affordable health care. We all have a stake in meeting the difficult challenges we face in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Applause.)

For while some may wish to define you solely by your sexual orientation or gender identity alone, you know — and I know — that none of us wants to be defined by just one part of what makes us whole. (Applause.) You’re also parents worried about your children’s futures. You’re spouses who fear that you or the person you love will lose a job. You’re workers worried about the rising cost of health insurance. You’re soldiers. You are neighbors. You are friends. And, most importantly, you are Americans who care deeply about this country and its future. (Applause.)

So I know you want me working on jobs and the economy and all the other issues that we’re dealing with. But my commitment to you is unwavering even as we wrestle with these enormous problems. And while progress may be taking longer than you’d like as a result of all that we face — and that’s the truth — do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach. (Applause.)

My expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians — whether in the office or on the battlefield. (Applause.) You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman. (Applause.) You will see a nation that’s valuing and cherishing these families as we build a more perfect union — a union in which gay Americans are an important part. I am committed to these goals. And my administration will continue fighting to achieve them.

And there’s no more poignant or painful reminder of how important it is that we do so than the loss experienced by Dennis and Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew was stolen in a terrible act of violence 11 years ago. In May, I met with Judy — who’s here tonight with her husband — I met her in the Oval Office, and I promised her that we were going to pass an inclusive hate crimes bill — a bill named for her son. (Applause.)

This struggle has been long. Time and again we faced opposition. Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed. But the Shepards never gave up. (Applause.) They turned tragedy into an unshakeable commitment. (Applause.) Countless activists and organizers never gave up. You held vigils, you spoke out, year after year, Congress after Congress. The House passed the bill again this week. (Applause.) And I can announce that after more than a decade, this bill is set to pass and I will sign it into law. (Applause.)

It’s a testament to the decade-long struggle of Judy and Dennis, who tonight will receive a tribute named for somebody who inspired so many of us — named for Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought tirelessly for this legislation. (Applause.) And it’s a testament to the Human Rights Campaign and those who organized and advocated. And it’s a testament to Matthew and to others who’ve been the victims of attacks not just meant to break bones, but to break spirits — not meant just to inflict harm, but to instill fear. Together, we will have moved closer to that day when no one has to be afraid to be gay in America. (Applause.) When no one has to fear walking down the street holding the hand of the person they love. (Applause.)

But we know there’s far more work to do. We’re pushing hard to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill. (Applause.) For the first time ever, an administration official testified in Congress in favor of this law. Nobody in America should be fired because they’re gay, despite doing a great job and meeting their responsibilities. It’s not fair. It’s not right. We’re going to put a stop to it. (Applause.) And it’s for this reason that if any of my nominees are attacked not for what they believe but for who they are, I will not waver in my support, because I will not waver in my commitment to ending discrimination in all its forms. (Applause.)

We are reinvigorating our response to HIV/AIDS here at home and around the world. (Applause.) We’re working closely with the Congress to renew the Ryan White program and I look forward to signing it into law in the very near future. (Applause.) We are rescinding the discriminatory ban on entry to the United States based on HIV status. (Applause.) The regulatory process to enact this important change is already underway. And we also know that HIV/AIDS continues to be a public health threat in many communities, including right here in the District of Columbia. Jeffrey Crowley, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, recently held a forum in Washington, D.C., and is holding forums across the country, to seek input as we craft a national strategy to address this crisis.

We are moving ahead on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. (Applause.) We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we’re fighting two wars. (Applause.)

We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford — for our military’s integrity — to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie. So I’m working with the Pentagon, its leadership, and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That’s my commitment to you. (Applause.)

It is no secret that issues of great concern to gays and lesbians are ones that raise a great deal of emotion in this country. And it’s no secret that progress has been incredibly difficult — we can see that with the time and dedication it took to pass hate crimes legislation. But these issues also go to the heart of who we are as a people. Are we a nation that can transcend old attitudes and worn divides? Can we embrace our differences and look to the hopes and dreams that we share? Will we uphold the ideals on which this nation was founded: that all of us are equal, that all of us deserve the same opportunity to live our lives freely and pursue our chance at happiness? I believe we can; I believe we will. (Applause.)

And that is why — that’s why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. (Applause.) I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I’ve required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I’ve called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. (Applause.) And we must all stand together against divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people’s lingering fears for political and ideological gain.

For the struggle waged by the Human Rights Campaign is about more than any policy we can enshrine into law. It’s about our capacity to love and commit to one another. It’s about whether or not we value as a society that love and commitment. It’s about our common humanity and our willingness to walk in someone else’s shoes: to imagine losing a job not because of your performance at work but because of your relationship at home; to imagine worrying about a spouse in the hospital, with the added fear that you’ll have to produce a legal document just to comfort the person you love — (applause) — to imagine the pain of losing a partner of decades and then discovering that the law treats you like a stranger. (Applause.)

If we are honest with ourselves we’ll admit that there are too many who do not yet know in their lives or feel in their hearts the urgency of this struggle. That’s why I continue to speak about the importance of equality for LGBT families — and not just in front of gay audiences. That’s why Michelle and I have invited LGBT families to the White House to participate in events like the Easter Egg Roll — because we want to send a message. (Applause.) And that’s why it’s so important that you continue to speak out, that you continue to set an example, that you continue to pressure leaders — including me — and to make the case all across America. (Applause.)

So, tonight I’m hopeful — because of the activism I see in this room, because of the compassion I’ve seen all across America, and because of the progress we have made throughout our history, including the history of the movement for LGBT equality.

Soon after the protests at Stonewall 40 years ago, the phone rang in the home of a soft-spoken elementary school teacher named Jeanne Manford. It was 1:00 in the morning, and it was the police. Now, her son, Morty, had been at the Stonewall the night of the raids. Ever since, he had felt within him a new sense of purpose. So when the officer told Jeanne that her son had been arrested, which was happening often to gay protesters, she was not entirely caught off guard. And then the officer added one more thing, “And you know, he’s homosexual.” (Laughter.) Well, that police officer sure was surprised when Jeanne responded, “Yes, I know. Why are you bothering him?” (Applause.)

And not long after, Jeanne would be marching side-by-side with her son through the streets of New York. She carried a sign that stated her support. People cheered. Young men and women ran up to her, kissed her, and asked her to talk to their parents. And this gave Jeanne and Morty an idea.

And so, after that march on the anniversary of the Stonewall protests, amidst the violence and the vitriol of a difficult time for our nation, Jeanne and her husband Jules — two parents who loved their son deeply — formed a group to support other parents and, in turn, to support their children, as well. At the first meeting Jeanne held, in 1973, about 20 people showed up. But slowly, interest grew. Morty’s life, tragically, was cut short by AIDS. But the cause endured. Today, the organization they founded for parents, families, and friends of lesbians and gays — (applause) — has more than 200,000 members and supporters, and has made a difference for countless families across America. And Jeanne would later say, “I considered myself such a traditional person. I didn’t even cross the street against the light.” (Laughter.) “But I wasn’t going to let anybody walk over Morty.” (Applause.)

That’s the story of America: of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating and advocating for change; of hope stronger than hate; of love more powerful than any insult or injury; of Americans fighting to build for themselves and their families a nation in which no one is a second-class citizen, in which no one is denied their basic rights, in which all of us are free to live and love as we see fit. (Applause.)

Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.

I believe the future is bright for that young person. For while there will be setbacks and bumps along the road, the truth is that our common ideals are a force far stronger than any division that some might sow. These ideals, when voiced by generations of citizens, are what made it possible for me to stand here today. (Applause.) These ideals are what made it possible for the people in this room to live freely and openly when for most of history that would have been inconceivable. That’s the promise of America, HRC. That’s the promise we’re called to fulfill. (Applause.) Day by day, law by law, changing mind by mind, that is the promise we are fulfilling.

Thank you for the work you’re doing. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)

END 8:35 P.M. EDT