Friday, August 31, 2012

Fwd: White House LGBT Update: Justice at Home and Abroad

White House LGBT Update: Justice at Home and Abroad
The White House Friday, August 31, 2012

Good morning,

Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken important steps to ensure equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people -- from implementing and enforcing important civil rights protections at home to standing up for the human rights of LGBT people abroad.

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Gautam Raghavan
Office of Public Engagement
The White House 

Attorney General Speaks at the 2012 Lavender Law Conference

Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks

Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks at the 2012 Lavender Law Conference in Washington, D.C. on August 23, 2012 (Photo by Jason Smith/National LGBT Bar Association). 

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered keynote remarks at the 2012 Lavender Law Conference, an annual gathering hosted by the National LGBT Bar Association. Speaking before approximately 1,000 lawyers and legal professionals, the Attorney General described some of the important legal developments that have taken place in recent years:

We've come together at an exciting moment. Thanks to the work of tireless advocates, activists, and attorneys in – and far beyond – this room, our nation has made great strides on the road to LGBT equality and the unfinished struggle to secure and protect the civil rights of all Americans. For President Obama, for me, and for our colleagues at every level of the Obama Administration, this work has long been a top priority – and I'm pleased to note that it has resulted in meaningful, measurable, and enduring change.

We can all be proud that, today – for the first time in history – those who courageously serve their country in uniform need no longer hide their sexual orientation. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, it's worth celebrating the fact that so many brave servicemen and women can now serve their country proudly, honestly, openly, and without fear of discharge. We can take pride in the fact that, early last year, President Obama and I directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, we've seen an encouraging – and increasing – number of courts hold this provision to be unconstitutional, including a federal district court in Connecticut that found that Section 3 fails to survive heightened constitutional scrutiny just last month.

And we can be encouraged by the robust efforts that our nation's Department of Justice is leading to ensure the vigorous enforcement of civil rights protections in order to safeguard LGBT individuals and others from the most brutal forms of bias-motivated violence. Thanks to the outstanding leadership of my good friend, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez – and the dedication of skilled investigators, attorneys, law enforcement officials, and support staffers within the Department's Civil Rights Division and throughout its partner agencies – today, this work is stronger than ever before. And our resolve to meet evolving threats with renewed vigilance has never been more clear.

In concluding his remarks, the Attorney General encouraged members of the audience to remain engaged in the work of the Obama Administration to ensure equality and justice for LGBT people:

I know the progress we seek won't always come as quickly as we might hope, or as easily as we would like. And that's why, tonight, I'm not just here to thank you for all you've done to help bring us to this point; to highlight the Administration's efforts in service of the same cause; or to celebrate everything that we've achieved together.

I'm also here to ask for your continued help, to draw on your considerable passion and expertise, and to reiterate the Department's commitment – and my own – to building on the momentum we've established, and ensuring that the recent successes we've seen are just the beginning.

As current – and aspiring – leaders of the bench and bar, everyone here tonight understands what's at stake. You realize how important every hard-fought legal victory – large and small – really is. You are – or soon will be – uniquely situated to use the power of the law, as well as your own gifts and knowledge, to help build a more fair, more equal, and more just society. And you have not only the power, but – I believe – the solemn responsibility, to do precisely that: to safeguard the rights and freedoms of everyone in this country, and to carry on the critical but unfinished work that lies ahead.

Read the Attorney General's remarks as prepared for the Lavender Law Conference.

In case you missed it:

State Department Condemns Arrest and Harassment of LGBT Activists in Zimbabwe

Following a recent series of police actions against LGBT people in Zimbabwe, the U.S. Department of State issued the following statement:

The United States condemns the Government of Zimbabwe's violent arrest and detention of 44 members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe on August 11 and a second raid by police on August 20. Several of these members sustained serious medical injuries from the attacks and were detained without charges. The Government of Zimbabwe has also targeted these same members' homes and singled out their families for interrogation and harassment.

The United States stands in solidarity with Zimbabwe's civil society, including LGBT activists. We are deeply concerned when security forces become an instrument of political violence used against citizens exercising their democratic rights. We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to end this pattern of abuse and to eradicate the culture of impunity that allows members of the security sector to continue to violate the rights of the Zimbabwean people.

Learn more about the Obama Administration's efforts to advance the human rights of LGBT persons abroad:

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In Case You Missed It 

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama and guests applaud

First Lady Michelle Obama and guests applaud as Big Time Rush performs during the Kids' State Dinner in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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