Grace shines down, and I look up to see my love

President’s speech – go to 5:44 for our family – Peace

Transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, hello, hello! (Applause.) Hello, everybody!
(Applause.) I was going to say welcome to the White House — but you
guys seem like you feel right at home. (Laughter.) You don’t need me
to tell you — it’s the people’s house.

A couple of acknowledgements that I want to make very quickly —
first of all, our Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who
has just done an extraordinary job across the government — give John
Berry a big round of applause. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: All right, John!

THE PRESIDENT: All right, John! (Laughter.)

Our chair of the Export/Import Bank, helping to bring jobs here to
the United States of America — Fred Hochberg. (Applause.) Our chair of
the Council on Environmental Quality, doing outstanding work each and
every day — Nancy Sutley. Where is she? (Applause.) Nancy is a little
vertically challenged, but I see her over there. (Laughter.)

We’ve got here a trailblazer for federal appointees — we are so
proud of her — Ms. Roberta Achtenberg is here. Give Roberta a big
round of applause. (Applause.) And then I understand we’ve got a
terrific country singer — Chely Wright is in the house. (Applause.)

In addition — I know they had to leave because they had votes, but
you guys obviously don’t have just fiercer warriors on your behalf
than a couple of our openly gay and lesbian members of Congress —
Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis. (Applause.) They are openly terrific.
(Laughter.) They do great work.

And it is also great to have so many activists and organizers from
around the country — folks who fight every day for the rights of
parents and children and partners and citizens to be treated equally
under the law. And so we are very proud of all of you. (Applause.)

Oh, and by the way, the guy standing next to me — this is Joe
Biden. (Applause.) Just because he’s a Phillies fan — he’s from
Delaware. (Laughter.)

Now, look, the fact that we’ve got activists here is important
because it’s a reminder that change never comes — or at least never
begins in Washington. It begins with acts of compassion — and
sometimes defiance — across America. It begins when ordinary people —
out of love for a mother or a father, son or daughter, or husband or
wife — speak out against injustices that have been accepted for too
long. And it begins when these impositions of conscience start opening
hearts that had been closed, and when we finally see each other’s
humanity, whatever our differences.

Now, this struggle is as old as America itself. It’s never been
easy. But standing here, I am hopeful. One year ago, in this room, we
marked the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall protests. (Applause.)
Some of you were here, and you may remember that I pledged then that
even at a time when we faced enormous challenges both on the economy
and in our foreign policy, that we would not put aside matters of
basic equality. And we haven’t.

We’ve got a lot of hard work that we still have to do, but we can
already point to extraordinary progress that we’ve made over the past
year on behalf of Americans who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and
transgender.

Just stay with me here for a second. Last year, I met with Judy
Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mom, and I promised her that after a
decade’s-long struggle, we would pass inclusive hate crimes
legislation. I promised that in the name of her son we would ensure
that the full might of the law is brought down on those who would
attack somebody just because they are gay. And less than six months
later, with Judy by my side, we marked the enactment of the Matthew
Shepard Act. It’s now the law of the land. (Applause.)

Just a few moments ago, I met with Janice Langbehn and her
children. Where did Janice go? There they are right there. And when
Janice’s partner of 18 years, Lisa, suddenly collapsed because of an
aneurysm, Janice and the couple’s three kids were denied the chance to
comfort their partner and their mom — barred from Lisa’s bedside. It
was wrong. It was cruel. And in part because of their story, I
instructed my Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen
Sebelius, to make sure that any hospital that’s participating in
Medicare or Medicaid — that means most hospitals — (laughter) — allow
gay and lesbian partners the same privileges and visitation rights as
straight partners. (Applause.)

After I issued that memorandum, I called Janice and I told her the
news. And before we came out here today, I wanted to make sure that I
had followed up — Secretary Sebelius will officially be proposing this
regulation. And I can also announce that the Secretary has sent a
letter today asking these hospitals to adopt these changes now — even
before the rule takes effect. (Applause.) Nothing can undo the hurt
that her — that Janice’s family has experienced.
And nothing can undo
the pain felt by countless others who’ve been through a similar ordeal
— for example, Charlene Strong is here. She lost her wife, Kate
Fleming — and Charlene is here along with Kate’s mom, who said on
behalf of all mothers, thank you. Because we think it’s the right
thing to do. (Applause.)

In addition, I’ve issued an executive order[SIC]* to extend as
many partnership benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees as
possible under current law. And I’m going to continue to fight to
change the law: to guarantee gay federal employees the exact same
benefits as straight employees — including access to health insurance
and retirement plans. (Applause.) And in an announcement today, the
Department of Labor made clear that under the Family and Medical Leave
Act, same-sex couples — as well as others raising children — are to be
treated like the caretakers that they are. (Applause.)

Because I believe in committed — I believe that committed gay and
lesbian couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities afforded
to any married couple in this country, I have called for Congress to
repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. (Applause.) We are
pushing hard to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill.
(Applause.) No one in America should be fired because they’re gay.
It’s not right, it’s not who we are as Americans, and we are going to
put a stop to it.

And finally, we’re going to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
(Applause.) That is a promise I made as a candidate. It is a promise
that I reiterated as President. It’s one that this administration is
going to keep. Now, the only way to lock this in — the only way to get
the votes in Congress to roll back this policy — is if we work with
the Pentagon, who are in the midst of two wars.

And that’s why we were gratified to see, for the first time ever,
the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, testify in favor of repeal. And
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, has repeatedly
and passionately argued for allowing gay men and women to serve
honestly in the military. (Applause.) We know that forcing gay and
lesbian soldiers to live a lie or to leave the military, that doesn’t
contribute to our security — it harms our security.

And thanks to Patrick Murphy and others, for the first time in
history, the House has passed a repeal that would allow gay men and
women to openly serve in our armed forces. And this repeal is authored
so that the Pentagon can complete its review of the policy — which is
critical, by the way, not only to passage, but it’s also critical to
making sure that the change is accepted and implemented effectively.
In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee has approved repeal for
the first time, and the full body is poised to vote soon.

So here’s the bottom line: We have never been closer to ending
this discriminatory policy. And I’m going to keep on fighting until
that bill is on my desk and I can sign it. (Applause.)

Of course, ultimately, change is about more than just policies in
our government. And that’s why I want to close by recognizing all the
young people who are here — I had a chance to take a bunch of pictures
with them, just really impressive folks who are advocating on their
behalf. I know there are some in the audience who have experienced
pain in their lives, who at times have been — felt like outcasts, who
have been scorned or bullied, and I know that there are families here
on behalf of loved ones who are no longer with us, some in part
because of the particularly difficult challenges that gay men and
women still face.

This is a reminder that we all have an obligation to ensure that
no young person is ever made to feel worthless or alone — ever. Now,
at the same time, I think there’s plenty of reason to have some hope
for many of the young people including those who are here today.
They’ve shown incredible courage and incredible integrity — standing
up for who they are. They’ve refused to be anything less than
themselves.

And we all remember being young — sort of. (Laughter.) But it’s
not easy. It’s not easy standing up all the time and being who you
are. But they’re showing us the way forward. These young people are
helping to build a more perfect union, a nation where all of us are
equal; each of us is free to pursue our own versions of happiness.

And I believe because of them that the future is bright. It’s
certainly bright for them. Of course, it does depend on all of us. It
depends on the efforts of government and the activism of ordinary
citizens like yourselves. It depends on the love of families and the
support of communities. And I want you all to know that as this work
continues, I’m going to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you,
fighting by your side every step of the way. (Applause.)

So, thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of
America. (Applause.)

Thank you Mr. President

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