It’s a pleasure, as always, to be part of this celebration. And it’s a privilege to welcome so many distinguished guests – including this year’s keynote speaker, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum – to the Justice Department.
Thank you all for being here as we commemorate LGBT Pride Month – by reflecting on the extraordinary contributions of LGBT Americans and their allies, and by recognizing the outstanding achievements of this year’s award recipients.
I would like to begin by congratulating each of the DOJ team members – as well as the students from the Anoka-Hennepin School District – who are receiving the Gerald B. Roemer Community Service Award for their innovative, dedicated efforts to prevent and combat sexual identity-based discrimination in the classroom. Your actions have made a profound difference in the lives of countless young people, and helped to ensure that all of our children have access to safe and supportive learning environments.
I’d also like to acknowledge this year’s James R. Douglass Award recipient, Diana Flynn –Chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Appellate Section – who is being honored for her remarkable work in raising awareness about – and helping to address – a host of issues facing LGBT employees across the Department.
Today’s awardees have made a tremendous impact – improving lives, families, and entire communities. They’ve also helped to advance our nation’s critical and ongoing struggle for LGBT equality. And each one of them serves as an important reminder that this work is driven forward –not just by institutions like this one, but also by individual actions – of courage, compassion, and commitment.
Thanks to the advocates, activists, and attorneys in this room – and all across the country – we have made meaningful, once-unimaginable progress in recent years. And we come together at an exciting moment.
Here at the Justice Department, we can all be proud of the robust efforts that are underway to combat discrimination – in all its forms – in every community, every workplace, and every school. Particularly in recent years, the Civil Rights Division has strengthened its critical efforts to protect our nation’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals from the most brutal forms of bias-motivated violence.
This past April, the Department issued its first-ever indictment under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – the landmark legislation that President Obama signed into law in 2009 – for an alleged anti-gay crime in Kentucky. Since then, we’ve continued to review numerous reports of federal hate crimes, and are resolved to bring charges whenever and wherever appropriate. At the same time, we’re doing our part to educate and train our law enforcement partners across the country on gender identity-based discrimination, so that those who serve on the front lines are better equipped to prevent, identify, and stop discrimination wherever it occurs. And we’ve fought to expand protections for LGBT individuals by supporting an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would extend workplace protections to LGBT individuals, and a Violence Against Women Act that would ensure that the law’s non-discrimination provisions cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Department also has been working to coordinate significant, Administration-wide efforts to combat bullying – and to send a clear message that these actions have no place in our nation’s schools, and – quite simply – will not be tolerated. Across the country, we’re working closely with educators, administrators, and students – including courageous members of the Anoka-Hennepin community – to resolve harassment allegations and to lay out a blueprint for sustainable reform. As we move forward, let me assure you that we will continue to use every resource – and every appropriate legal tool – to provide help to students who feel unsafe or have been victimized, to forge partnerships with relevant stakeholders, and to engage with community leaders to prevent and combat unacceptable behavior and to promote healthy environments for every child.
The DOJ has the full speach