Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 5, the historic Equality Act, to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and I’m so proud that you are in the Chair, as well as all the others who will preside in the course of this historic debate today – Angie Craig being one of them.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the distinguished Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for giving us the opportunity for us today to expand freedom in America.
I commend Congressman Cicilline for his extraordinary leadership, his courage and his persistence in introducing this legislation – so important to our country.
And doing so with the full support of the Congressional Black Caucus. To see him stand there – the rest of us honored to join Congressman John Lewis on the day of announcement a couple years – a while back. Was that a year and a half, two years ago?
And now, in the Majority, for us to have the privilege to bring this legislation to the Floor – thank you Congressman Cicilline for being a champion of equality in our country.
And again, I salute the Congressional Black Caucus and John Lewis and so many others – Mr. Cleaver who will speak later today.
It is a deeply powerful moment to be on this Floor to talk about this important legislation.
What I would like to do is take the opportunity of the time allotted to me, or that I will use, to salute the countless activists, advocates, outside organizers and mobilizers who have courageously demanded the full rights and justice of all Americans.
We have been on this Floor – many of us, Mr. Hoyer, we all go way back when we fought for funding for HIV and AIDS and we were successful not only because of our inside maneuvering, but because of the outside mobilization.
We were successful in passing a fully-inclusive hate crimes legislation. Barney Frank led the way for us inside, but the outside groups mobilizing, mobilizing, mobilizing.
Then, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, we salute him for it, we were able – in the Congress, in the Majority – to pass the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and putting that into the dustbin of history – successful because of the activism of outside groups and advocates.
And then, of course, the horrible Defense of Marriage Act. I don’t know what marriages they were defending, but the defense of marriage that was proposed by some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, the Supreme Court gave us that answer about justice in our country.
And then, ending the hateful ban on transgender military service.
So, this Congress, this has been a scene where we have fought the fight on legislation, fought the fight presenting the case in the court of public opinion and to bolster the case in the Supreme Court.
And, on this monumental day, my thoughts with Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin, who shared their lives together for decades. They were mentors to so many of us in San Francisco for decades about civic engagement, some of that civic engagement related to LGBTQ rights. They were an inspiration, as I say, to many of us.
When people say to me, it’s easy for you to be for some of these things because you are from San Francisco, people are so tolerant there. I say, ‘Tolerant? That is a condescending word to me. This is not about tolerance, this is about respect of the LGBTQ community. This is about taking pride.’ And that is what we do.
For Phyllis and Del and other older LGBTQ couples, for LGBTQ workers striving to provide for their families, for young people, LGBTQ youth, this is a historic, transformative moment.
Fifty years after the LBGTQ Americans took to the streets outside of New York’s Stonewall Inn to fight against harassment and hate, we take pride in the progress we have forged together. Our Founders, in their great wisdom, wrote in our beautiful preamble – wrote of the blessings of liberty, which were to be the birthright of all Americans.
To bring our nation closer to the founding promise of liberty and justice for all, we, today, pass the Equality Act and finally, fully end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. LGBTQ people deserve full civil rights protections in the workplace, in everyplace – in education, housing, credit, jury duty, service and public accommodations. No one should be forced to lose his or her job, their home or to live in fear because of who they are and whom they love.
This is personal, it’s not just about policy, but about people. Earlier this year, I received a letter from a trans woman living in San Francisco who faced threats, stalking and harassment because of who she is. This is what she says in her communication, ‘The fear is very much there. All I want to do is live my life like anyone else. Please keep seeing me.’
Today, and for all days, we say to all of our friends, we see you, we support you, we stand with you with pride. We look forward to a swift, strong, successful and, hopefully, strongly bipartisan bill today for equality.
This is not just an act of Congress that we are taking for the LGBTQ community, this is progress for America. I urge an ‘aye’ vote and I yield back the balance of my time.