by Jeremy Leaming
The U.S. Department of Justice has made historic strides in bettering lives of the LGBT community through efforts to promote equality, but Attorney General Eric Holder told an Aug. 23 gathering of the National LGBT Bar Association in Washington, D.C. that he needs the continued involvement, support and passion of its members and other advocates of equality to continue the “momentum.”
Providing the keynote address at the LGBT Bar Association’s 2012 Annual Lavender Law Conference, Holder did not reveal any new information regarding the DOJ’s efforts to protect the rights and advance equality for LGBT persons, or announce any new initiatives. In an election year that’s hardly surprising, and for this audience, it really did not matter.
So reciting the DOJ’s and the administration’s well covered efforts was enough for this crowd and sufficient to illicit rounds of ongoing applause. In a speech less than 30 minutes, Holder breezed through the Obama administration’s pro-equality work and provided plaudits for individual lawyers and advocates fighting to advance equality. (See C-SPAN video of Holder's address below the break.)
“We come together tonight at an exciting moment; thanks to the tireless work of advocates and attorneys in and far beyond this room, our nation has made great strides on the road to LGBT equality and the unfinished struggle to secure civil rights of all Americans,” Holder said. “We can all be proud today,” he continued, “that for the first time in history those who courageously serve this country need no longer hide their sexual orientation. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ it is worth celebrating the fact that so many brave souls can serve proudly, honorably, honestly, openly and without fear of discharge.”
Pivoting quickly to another administration action, Holder reminded the audience at the Washington Hilton that the DOJ no longer defends a major, and onerous provision of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the anti-gay measure signed into law by former President Bill Clinton. (It took awhile for the administration to stop defending the blatantly bigoted law for the executive branch has a tradition of defending the constitutionality of acts of Congress.)
“We can also take pride in the fact that last year, President Obama and I directed the Justice Department not to defend the constitutionality of Sec. 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act,” Holder said. “Since then we’ve seen an increasing and encouraging number of courts hold this provision unconstitutional.”