During this Pride month, I’ve had the opportunity to pause and reflect and both appreciate the progress we’ve made as a nation, and to commit to the march toward change that still remains.
It has been just under two years since the right to marriage for gay couples was finally guaranteed by the Supreme Court. This was a monumental achievement for our country -- and, most specifically, for all who fought tirelessly for decades for justice and equal protection under the law.
We’ve seen other hard-won victories over the last few years -- momentum building. For the first half of my military career, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy remained in effect. The terrible rule directly impacted friends, including one of my West Point classmates, who was discharged from the Army after revealing his sexual orientation. Close, brave, patriotic friends who could tell me they were gay, did not have the freedom to say so publically. This represented an ugly contradiction. The most basic task of our military is to protect the free lives we all live, and yet, that same military was limiting the freedom of many of its members. It was indeed a proud day when the Obama Administration reversed the DADT policy. Our Army is stronger and freer for it, with no ill effects despite the predictions of naysayers. It is because of accomplishments like these that Pride parades all around the country have more and more to celebrate.
Despite great progress, obstacles continue to block LGBTQ Americans from enjoying all their rights as Americans. We still need to outlaw workplace discrimination at the Federal level and to ensure that protections in educational spaces remain despite recent backwards steps by Betsy Devos, Jeff Sessions, and others in the Trump Administration. It is also imperative that government officials at all levels take steps to counter a recent rise in hate-based violence against LGBTQ Americans. Protecting the rights of all of us to live our lives free from oppression is a job for all of us, no matter whom we love. I'm ready to stand up for that in Washington. I hope you’ll join me.