Forty years ago, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our nation took a great step toward realizing its founding ideal: that all of us should have the opportunity to realize our God-given potential.
But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us, the Civil Rights Act was "only the beginning of a new day...not the end of a journey."
Our journey is not over when our schools are under-funded and school reforms are incomplete, when 46 million Americans don't have health insurance, when people of color are significantly more likely to suffer and die from diseases like cancer and AIDS and diabetes, and when extremist judges are turning back the clock on our 40-year march toward.
We've removed the barriers of hate that kept us from drinking at the same water fountain or attending the same school. I believe in continuing this journey and also remembering those that fought before us. That is why I introduced legislation to have a statue built in the Capitol rotunda of Rosa Parks, a woman who bravely stood up against injustice for us all. I am proud that this legislation became law and that her likeness will be immortalized in the Capitol among other national leaders and heroes.
I believe we must do everything we can to enforce our nation's civil rights laws - which are why I am proud that The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law last year. This gives local law enforcement the resources and tools they need to successfully prosecute crimes motivated by prejudice and hatred.
That is also why I worked to lift the HIV travel and immigration ban. This 22 year-old ban on people with HIV served no other purpose than to stigmatize those with the disease and hinder informed discussion and research on the cure. I believe it is important to confront discrimination in all its forms. It is the only way to ensure that we are all truly equal under the law.
For this reason, I believe no patriotic American who wants to serve in our armed forces should have to hide who they are, which is why I have always opposed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly and proudly. I'm heartened by efforts underway to overturn that ban, and I will work hard to make that a reality.
We are only truly free as a nation when every one of us is free of discrimination. Our national journey toward fulfilling that ideal is ongoing, and I will do everything I can to make sure we reach that ideal.