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Public Statements

Equal Justice Under the Law

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Minutes ago, a 5-4 decision, written by Justice Kennedy, ruled that DOMA is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Today's decision is a monumental step forward in the long march towards GLBT equality.

Forty years ago, I chaired a committee hearing in the Oregon legislature on discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was an eye-opening experience for me. It was the first time someone ever acknowledged to me their sexual orientation, let alone the discrimination they faced living a life of repression and fear. In the course of those 40 years, it has been a privilege to have been able to help fight to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We have watched a political movement emerge from the ashes of defeat, on discriminatory ballot measures across the country. It's exciting to see how this movement has been led at first by the people in the GLBT community, who refused to accept defeat, who, despite significant personal sacrifice, have stepped forward to declare who they are, who they love, what they want, and why they want it.

It has been encouraging to watch business leaders step forward, no longer just the more progressive elements of the business community. Lately, it has become mainstream to acknowledge that diversity in the workforce demands a nondiscrimination policy--that regardless of a person's sexual orientation and to whom they choose to commit, it makes no difference in the eyes of a thoughtful, successful employer.

It was exciting for me to watch and to participate in this year's Pride Parade in Portland, to note the leadership of virtually every institution in our community--businesses like Nike and Standard Insurance, Northwest Natural, grocery stores, colleges, hospitals and health professionals, universities, and churches--all marching proudly in a show of solidarity, a rejection of discrimination, support for diversity in the workplace for our friends, neighbors and relatives.

Today's Supreme Court decision marks the most significant milestone yet in this struggle. By striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court has cast aside a major barrier to our GLBT friends, neighbors and relatives to be able to live complete lives--to be able to avoid discrimination, the stigma, the economic disadvantage. It's a signal that this will be the final chapter for a society that recognizes the worth of all human beings, acknowledges the right of all human beings to live as they wish, love who they will and be able to enjoy the multiple benefits that come from being involved in committed relationships and legal marriages.

It's not just a milestone for our brothers and sisters in the GLBT community. It's a significant benefit for all society. If one truly believes that marriage is one of the cornerstones that we encourage for committed relationships, for people to be able to raise their families, look after one another in a stable, committed relationship, why shouldn't they be able to marry? Why should the Federal Government refuse to recognize that and discriminate? Some of the most traditional elements of our society who are dragging their feet should be in the forefront in helping lead this charge.

Now, we must be vigilant. There are still pockets of resistance, hostility, bigotry, and discrimination. There are State laws that need to be adjusted, but it will no longer be sanctioned by Federal policy, and that is the critical difference. Once it is no longer legal to discriminate, we are truly in the homestretch for the type of society we want.

This critical step was a narrow 5-4 decision, but it was a victory nonetheless. The path forward is a little more clear, and it's going to be a little easier. But before we start this next chapter, it's fitting that we celebrate this moment--the accomplishment of what it represents and what it will mean for America.

That temple of justice that is the Supreme Court looks a little different this morning, and I hope Americans will appreciate it and think about where we go from here.


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