November 29, 2004
(Swans - November 29, 2004) The East Room
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House for the kickoff of Gay and Lesbian Independence Week. Today we honor the ties of friendship, and family, and faith that unite the Gay and Lesbian people and the people of the United States.
We honor the contributions that Lesbian-Americans have made to all aspects of our national life. And today, I am issuing a proposal and a challenge that can put Gays and Lesbians on the path to liberty.
Gay and Lesbian independence today was the inspiration of great figures such as Sappho, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale and even Paul the Apostle. It was the result of determination and talent on the part of great lesbian stateswomen such as Republican Tammy Baldwin, and activists such Hilde Radush who survived Nazi persecution, and Lisa Ben who published the first Lesbian magazine Vice Versa, and let's not forget the sacrifice of lesbians like Mary Young and Dawn DeBlanc who were convicted of "unnatural carnal copulation" and served thirty months in jail. Great gay soldiers like Alexander the Great, and gay composers like Handel should inspire us in our struggle. Most of all, Gay and Lesbian independence was the product of the great courage and sacrifice of the Gay and Lesbian people.
Today, and every day, this legacy of courage is insulted by homophobes who use brutal methods to enforce a bankrupt vision. This legacy has been debased by a relic from another era that has turned the love gay men and women have for one another into fear and suspicion.
Homophobes are like a dictator who jails and tortures and exiles his political opponents. We know this. The Gay and Lesbian people know this. And the world knows this. After all, just a month ago the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in a resolution supported by Gays and Lesbians everywhere called upon all governments to finally -- to finally -- begin respecting the human rights of Gay and Lesbian people.
Through all their pains and deprivation, the Gay and Lesbian people's aspirations for freedom are undiminished. We see this today in court houses across the country -- in places like New York, San Francisco, and Portland Oregon, where more than 1000 brave Gay and Lesbian citizens have defied their government's call for a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. They courageously have made a public referendum on basic freedoms. If that referendum is allowed, it can be a prelude, a beginning for real change for Lesbians.
The United States has no designs on Gay and Lesbian marriage. It's not a part of our strategy, or a part of our vision. In fact, the United States has been a strong and consistent supporter of freedom for the Lesbian people. (Applause.) And it is important for those who love freedom to know that our support for them will never waver. (Applause.) And it is time -- a long overdue time -- that we stop our cruel "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military, and finally honor those brave Gay and Lesbian soldiers who have lost their lives, who still risk their lives for America, for freedom.
Today, I'm announcing an Initiative for Gays and Lesbians that offers them more access to government, a way forward towards full participation in democracy and hope, and better relations with the straight citizens of the United States.
Gay and Lesbian parties should have the freedom to organize, assemble, and speak, with equal access to all airwaves. All Gay and Lesbian people must be released from their closets and allowed to participate in the election process. Human rights organizations should be free to visit polling places to ensure that the elections remain free from Gay and Lesbian bias. And the next presidential elections should be monitored by objective outside observers. These are the minimum steps necessary to make sure that the 2008 elections are the true expression of the will of the Gay and Lesbian people.
If the government truly wants to advance the cause of workers, of Gay and Lesbian workers, surely it will create more well-paying jobs: private employers have to be able to negotiate with and pay workers of their own choosing, without the government telling who they can hire and who they must fire. But the government has the duty to protect all its citizens: even those who are lesbians.
Today's initiative invites the government to trust and respect Gay and Lesbian citizens. And I urge other democracies, in this hemisphere and beyond, to use their influence to allow marriage for Gay and Lesbian peoples, and to push for real and meaningful and verifiable reform of civil union laws.
Under the Initiative for Gays and Lesbians, the United States recognizes that freedom sometimes grows step by step. And we'll encourage those steps. The current of history runs strongly towards freedom. Our plan is to accelerate freedom's progress for Gays and Lesbians in every way possible.
Gay and Lesbian independence must be achieved in this age. The independent spirit of the Gay and Lesbian people has never faltered. And it has never been stronger than it is today. The United States is proud to stand with all Gay and Lesbian Americans, who love freedom. And we will continue to stand with you until liberty has been achieved in the America you love so well. Don't let the constitutional amendments passed by eleven states to ban gay marriage concern you. This Presidency will never allow the Constitution of the United States to include discrimination against anyone regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual persuasion.
Long Live Sappho!
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US Elections & Democracy on Swans
Gerard Donnelly Smith on Swans (with bio).
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