Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Office of Justice Programs
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month Program
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Thank you, Carl [Lucas], and good morning. I'm so pleased to welcome all of you to this first OJP celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I can't tell you how proud I am that OJP is hosting this program.
I want to thank Carl and his staff, and Thomas [Lotito], for organizing today's event - and for all the work they've done to raise awareness here in OJP. In particular, I know they've held some informative brown bag lunches, including the most recent one on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Those have been great for addressing some very timely and important issues - and I just want to applaud you all for putting those together.
Let me also welcome our special guests - Kit Yan and Marc Salans - as well as the Ft. Belvoir Army Honor Guard. And, of course, I want to thank Rhea, who has so many talents - and clearly, singing is one of them.
I'm so excited about this program. This is an event whose time has come. I'm not sure if, even a few years ago, we could have thought about planning a program like this. Times certainly have changed for the better, and it's wonderful that here, in the Department of Justice, we can celebrate with our co-workers - and friends - in the LGBT - and Q - community.
And surely it's evidence of progress that we can now embrace the "Q." Not so long ago, as you well know, "queer" was considered a slur - now it's a source of pride and a sign that minds have been opened to accept people of all identities.
This program is also very personal to me. My son, Teddy, who just graduated from Harvard's School of Design two weeks ago, is gay - and I know the challenges he's faced - and, sadly, will continue to face. It's raised my consciousness in ways that I'm not sure would have been possible otherwise.
Back in April, I had the privilege of joining the Attorney General at the National Crime Victims' Rights Week candlelight observance, where we heard Judy Shepard talk in such moving terms about the suffering her son, Matthew, endured, and the incredibly difficult times she and her husband faced after his murder. As a mother, it was frankly not easy to listen to. But stories like Matthew Shepard's - and the courage of his mother and father - have been the impetus for much-needed - and long-overdue - change.
Now, thanks to Judy and Dennis Shepard - and the work of so many others - we have the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law. That really was a landmark piece of legislation which would not have been possible a few short years ago. And we should all be proud to be working for an Attorney General who has made enforcement of that law a top priority. It's gratifying to know that the Department of Justice is now very much part of the solution to the problem of hatred and bias in our country.
I've known a number of people who are active in promoting the LGBTQ cause, but I can't think of anyone who's been a stronger advocate - certainly not in the federal government - than our next speaker.
Kevin Jennings was appointed by Secretary Arne Duncan in July 2009 as Assistant Deputy Secretary in charge of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. In addition to all his experience in teaching and education, he's been consistently and energetically involved in advancing the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students and teachers.
He was faculty advisor to the nation's first Gay-Straight Alliance at Concord Academy in Massachusetts. He founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in Boston, which he later helped build into a national force. He was appointed by then-Governor William Weld to co-chair the Education Committee of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. He led the fight to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in Massachusetts public schools - the first state to do so. He's written books, produced films, been active in the theater. And I could go on.
He's not just an advocate, he's a champion - and he's been a wonderful ally at the Department of Education. I've loved working with him on a number of issues - and I don't know what I'm going to do come July because Kevin is leaving Education to take on a new position outside government. Kevin, what in the world are we going to do without you?!
But I do have to say, I'll continue to benefit from knowing Kevin in at least one way. My Chief of Staff, Thomas Abt, was a student of Kevin's at Concord Academy, and Thomas has been a wonderful addition to the OJP team. So the Jennings legacy lives on.
On that note, please welcome our guest speaker - and my good friend - Kevin Jennings.
Back to Speeches