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U.S. House of Representatives
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July 15, 2012

I will continue to stand up for what is right for the LGBT community

by Rep. Susan A. Davis

I am honored to receive the Spirit of Stonewall Friend of Pride award this year alongside Dr. Aaron Bruce and Tess Banko.  I extend my most heartfelt congratulations to them and to the other San Diego Pride award winners.  We must continue to the fight for equal rights together.

I started walking in the San Diego Pride parade while I was serving on the San Diego School Board in the 1980s.  Back then, the parade was very controversial and the streets we walked were often lined with hecklers, screaming at us in protest.  Today, San Diego Pride is an iconic event with thousands of people lining the street, united in support for the LGBT community. 

Ultimately, ensuring equal rights for all Americans should center on discussion of American values.  Who shares our values?  Family and patriotism are two core American values we can all agree on, yet extremists want to exclude LGBT Americans from the institutions that embody those values: marriage and the military.  I’ve never understood the rejection of people who want to get married, be responsible for their families, and serve their country.

My decision to be a leader in the movement to repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) stemmed from hearing the stories of the men and women, people just like my neighbors, who were forced to adhere to DADT while serving our nation.  In 2008, as Chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, I held the first hearings on DADT since it was instituted in 1993.  As we worked on the repeal, one of my colleagues asked me, “Well, what would the gay troops wear?”  I could not believe that someone would ask such an incredibly uneducated question!  From then on, I knew just how hard we would have to work to upend the prejudice that existed about allowing gays and lesbians to serve their country openly.  The inconceivable act of repealing DADT became an inevitability all because of the brave men and women who testified at their peril against DADT. 

Slowly but surely, the stories of those who suffered under DADT spoke for themselves.   On December 22, 2010, I was ecstatic that the unfair and discriminatory policy was repealed so that servicemen and women could have the right to serve proudly and openly as every other servicemember is able to do.

Despite the success of ending DADT, the quest for equality is an ongoing struggle.  The National Defense Authorization Act passed in May included two discriminatory provisions, one misleadingly called the “chaplain’s conscience protection amendment” (which incidentally does nothing to protect chaplains because they have always had the right to uphold their own denomination’s doctrine) and the other one a provision which would bar same-sex marriage ceremonies on military installations. While we move forward to address other issues – such as the question of military benefits for same-sex couples – we will also need to fend off continued attempts to undo what the repeal of DADT accomplished.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has to go.  As I’ve already referenced, the right of all people to marry the one they love is contradicted by DOMA.  The federal government cannot continue to ignore the right of the LGBT Americans and their families to be treated like every other citizen.  Arbitrarily withholding federal benefits from American citizens is wrong and I am astonished by the defenders of DOMA and the legislation they constantly plant in bills that come before the House of Representatives. 

This year’s Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a perfect example of that. Apparently, some believe that domestic violence against LGBT victims can be ignored.  I wholeheartedly disagree with this view and voted against the version of VAWA that the House of Representatives passed because it did not include a single provision to protect LGBT Americans from abuse.

I will continue to stand up for what is right for the LGBT community which is also what is right for our country.  I could not be prouder to represent you and San Diego.  Our community will only grow stronger as we dismantle the barriers to equal rights for everyone.  I wish you the very best San Diego Pride celebration yet!

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