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Pelosi Remarks at Human Rights Campaign National Dinner

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the keynote address and was presented with the National Equality Award Saturday, October 6 at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in Washington.  Below are the Speaker's remarks as prepared:


'Thank you for that kind introduction Jim, and thank you to the Human Rights Campaign for the honor of receiving the HRC Equality Award.


'It is a special honor to receive this recognition from HRC and a personal joy to receive it from Jim Hormel.


'Jim Hormel is a pillar of the San Francisco community and a cornerstone of the GLBT movement.  He is a great and generous philanthropist and a respected leader in the business community.  I was grateful to have him on my team as co-chair of my first House campaign.  As Ambassador to Luxembourg, Jim Hormel represented America with great distinction.  It is an honor to call you Mr. Ambassador, and friend.


'Thank you as well to Joe Solmonese for leading the way and defending the rights of the entire GLBT community.  I will display this award with great pride so that everyone knows that HRC and all of you have a friend in the Speaker's office. 


'As I travel the country, people ask me what is it like to be the Speaker of the House - especially the first woman speaker.  Some of you asked me that tonight. 


'What is it like to be Speaker of the House?  It is absolutely fabulous.


Salute to HRC


'Tonight, we join together in our nation's capital to celebrate the accomplishments and the courage of the Human Rights Campaign.


'More than 700,000 voices strong, HRC is the prime mover for GLBT rights across America and an inspiration for millions more.


'When Jim Hormel and many other courageous Americans built the foundations of what would become HRC, our struggle for justice was in its early stages.  But our cause for justice would not be denied.


'For being a powerful and positive counterbalance to the voices of hate - and for being the hope and salvation of millions of Americans - thank you, HRC.


First Day in Congress


'The video we just watched brings me back to my first day in Congress - and reminds me to pause and celebrate the phenomenal progress we have made working together.


'As the video mentioned, I made my first speech on the House floor about AIDS.


'I said that because that is why I came to the Congress.'


AIDS Work in Congress


'A doctor, speaking about his experience in those difficult days said recently, 'In the first years of AIDS, I imagine we felt like the folks on the rooftops during Katrina, waiting for help.'


'Because San Francisco had suffered the most, we learned a great deal about how to respond and developed community-based solutions that were a model for America, and eventually the world.


'Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, HOPWA, the Ryan White Care Act and ending discrimination against people with AIDS were inspired by San Franciscans and today these initiatives provide health care and support for hundreds of thousands of Americans with HIV/AIDS.


'And because San Francisco was early to realize that our approach must also be international, with the help of Dave Obey, we secured the first funding for global HIV/AIDS.  Working with so many of you - and with a helping hand from Bono - this has grown into a nearly $6 billion effort.


'There is still a great deal more to be done locally and globally.


Federal Marriage Amendment


'As we strive to work in a bipartisan way, we must also recognize the difference a Democratic Congress makes.


'In the previous Congress, we fought back cynical attempts to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution and defeated the Federal Marriage Amendment.


'In a Democratic Congress, unlike previous Congresses, malicious measures intended to divide the American people or to undermine the rights of the GLBT community are off the table.


Hate Crimes Prevention


'Instead, our Democratic Congress has a positive agenda.


'As Speaker, I proudly reintroduced the Early Treatment for HIV Act this year to extend Medicaid to uninsured Americans living with HIV.  We must pass this bill and we will.


'This past May, the House passed Chairman John Conyers' legislation protecting Americans against violence based on sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or gender identity.


'Some doubted that we could pass a hate crime bill if it included protections for transgender Americans.


'But Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin would not be denied.


'Representatives Baldwin and Barney Frank fought for a fully inclusive bill.  HRC rallied support.  And with 237 votes, the House passed hate crimes legislation.


'Just last week, the Senate followed suit with a strong bipartisan vote.  Thank you, Harry Reid.


'After 15 long years, we will - for the first time - put this bipartisan hate crimes legislation on the President's desk.


'I urge the President to sign this bipartisan bill to protect Americans.  Violence fueled by bigotry has no place in America.


'This evening, I want to thank a courageous leader who turned her family's grief into action and helped change the debate in America on hate crimes.  She traveled the country, she lobbied the Congress, and she won the day - Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard.




'As members and supporters of HRC, you understand that it is truly historic that the House of Representatives will soon pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.


'The tremendous progress we have would not have been possible without the great leadership of Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.  With his brilliance, his wit and legislative skill, he persevered in bringing ENDA before the Congress.


'America is a great and wealthy country, but we cannot afford to squander the talents of any of our citizens, nor should we.


'We all benefit if everyone gets a chance to work hard, and support their families.


'Yet today, in more than 30 states you can be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.


'That is wrong.  Federal action is needed, and it is long overdue.


'I strongly believe that transgender individuals deserve the same rights and the same protections as any other Americans and will work to see that ENDA also protects their rights.


'In a few weeks, the House will be voting on ENDA.  And those who oppose us will be lobbying on the Hill and working to defeat any version of ENDA.  We cannot allow the forces of discrimination succeed.


'Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and others will do the inside maneuvering.  But we cannot succeed without outside mobilization.  Working together, we will mobilize, and educate.  Each and every one of us must take personal responsibility for passing the strongest possible ENDA - one vote at a time.


'History teaches us that progress on civil rights is never easy.  But justice is inevitable.  It's about time.


'Many saw the 1957 Civil Rights Act as not having done enough, but it helped lay the groundwork for the great Civil Rights Act that followed.




'On the occasion of receiving the HRC Equality Award, I give you my commitment as Speaker of the House that I will fight for the most inclusive ENDA possible so that our nation's laws are in harmony with our nation's ideals.


'I accept this honor tonight on behalf of the many members of Congress who stand with HRC, not because it is popular in their districts, but because it is right.


'I also accept this award on behalf of my constituents in San Francisco.


'People always say it is easy for me to take these votes and be for these issues because San Francisco is so tolerant.


'It is not about tolerance.  It is about the respect we have for each other.  It is about the pride we take in our community.


'That sentiment is now spreading across America.  And it is happening thanks to the work of the Human Rights Campaign - and each and every one of you.


'Thank you, Joe Solmonese.  Thank you, Ambassador Hormel.  Thank you, HRC.


'May God Bless you, and May God Bless the America.'