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Public Statements

In Recognition of LGBT History Month

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Ms. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, October is LGBT History Month, and I rise to pay tribute to the remarkable achievements of numerous members of this vibrant community and to recognize some of the men and women whose contributions and service have made America better and greater.

* I am proud to have supported the repeal of ``Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'' which was formally abolished by the military on September 20th, 2011 after an orderly transition program prepared troops for the change without affecting force readiness or morale. Our nation is now stronger and our people are safer thanks to the sacrifices made by these brave Americans, who no longer need to choose between service and silence.

* There have been other changes for the better this year. In July, President Obama and his administration concluded that a critical section of the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer constitutionally defensible. And, on June 24th, the State of New York passed a law with bipartisan extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples.

* Just last week, history was made here in the House when our colleague, Congressman Polis of Colorado, celebrated the birth of a baby boy with his partner, and became the first openly gay parent to serve in Congress.

* This chamber has been enriched by his service, as it has by that of Congressman Barney Frank, the first openly gay Member to serve in the House of Representatives, and one of this body's ablest legislators. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin was the first openly gay non-incumbent to be elected to Congress. Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island was the first openly gay mayor of a major city before his election to Congress.

* Mr. Speaker, it is a great honor to serve with these great Americans and wonderful colleagues who overcame many obstacles and barriers to realize the dream of serving their communities and representing their friends and neighbors in the Congress of the United States.

* History, and progress, is also being made at the local level. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, one of the largest LGBT communities in the nation is located in the Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area, which I am privileged to represent. This dynamic community is culturally diverse and economically and artistically vibrant. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize two LGBT leaders who helped to make this possible.

* Jean Harris was a lifelong human rights activist who employed her uncanny talent for community organizing to electing open-minded city officials and defeating discriminatory legislation. A true force in California's LGBT community, she served as chair of the California Democratic Party's Lesbian/Gay Caucus, president of San Francisco's Harvey Milk Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club, and vice president of the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club. Indeed, many local leaders and public servants across California owe their careers to her tireless advocacy. Jean Harris passed away on June 15, 2011, and my deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.

* In August, I rose to pay tribute to the late Paul Duncan, the Director of Outreach for the Long Beach Community Business Network, who spent the last ten years of his life working tirelessly to connect local Long Beach employers to business organizations from Hawaii to Washington, DC. An advocate for economic empowerment of LGBT business owners and entrepreneurs, Mr. Duncan was known around the nation and beloved by the Long Beach community. He died suddenly of an aneurism at a national conference where he was one of 70 affiliate leaders working for job creation and expanded economic opportunity for LGBT owned businesses.

* Mr. Speaker, progress is made through the efforts of courageous leaders like Jean and Paul; people who actively engage their communities and face adversity to ensure that the rights of all are clearly defined and protected.

* People like the legendary Bayard Rustin, a leading strategist of the Civil Rights Movement and trusted advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. An early proponent of nonviolent resistance, Rustin organized the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation which inspired the Freedom Rides of the 1960s and helped Dr. King organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which became the nerve center of the American Civil Rights Movement.

* Bayard Rustin was a driving force behind the iconic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which brought national attention to the civil rights struggle and spurred the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He arranged the transportation, trained the marshals and oversaw all of the logistical details involved in putting on one of the most effective political demonstrations in world history and setting the stage for Dr. King's timeless ``I Have a Dream'' speech.

* Later, Bayard Rustin worked to integrate all-white unions and became heavily involved in international humanitarian development and peacemaking. Openly gay, he became a public advocate for LGBT causes in the 1970s and passed away on a mission to Haiti in 1987.

* Many great writers of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Countée Cullen and Bruce Nugent, were homosexual, and the contributions they made to literature are forever ingrained in the cultural fabric of America. Langston Hughes was probably the most well known, though he was an intensely private man and never spoke openly on the subject.

* Billy Strayhorn was a musician and gifted composer whose 30 year collaboration with Duke Ellington resulted in some of the most indispensible music of the jazz age. Openly gay, Strayhorn participated in many civil rights causes and arranged a musical score for his friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963.

* James Baldwin is one of the great literary figures of the 20th century. The writings of this African-American explored issues of race and class and gender. He rose to prominence with the civil rights movement and worked to bridge the gap between the competing approaches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, both of whom were his personal friends. His work and life had a profound impact on countless equality activists and writers.

* Mr. Speaker, I am proud to acknowledge the achievements of just a few of the countless number of Americans who defied the odds and overcame prejudice and discrimination, and intolerance and worked to make everyone including America be a more welcoming place succeeding generations of LGBT community members.

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