Washington, D.C., was bursting with LGBT pride this week, ahead of the expected Supreme Court decisions in two marriage equality cases. Both the U.S. Departments of State and Justice held events to honor LGBT staffers and commit to the work left to be done, regardless of how the high court rules.
In his first speech on LGBT issues as secretary of state, John Kerry addressed the annual Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) Pride Event Wednesday, asserting his belief that the Defense of Marriage Act should be found unconstitutional.
"We have to come here today and commit ourselves to the ultimate task of fulfilling equality under the law here in our own country,” said the secretary, adding that the fight for equality would not end after the same-sex marriage cases are decided.
“We have to be clear-eyed about the challenges that remain,” said Kerry. “I believe that we are on an irreversible course, and I believe happily that the United States of America is helping to set a global example for how people ought to be treated in life."
The secretary’s remarks come at a watershed moment for the gay rights movement, as the nation awaits two Supreme Court rulings that could dramatically affect marriage equality. On Wednesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the third sitting Republican senator to publicly back same-sex marriage. And the day before, Attorney General Eric Holder celebrated gay pride with a speech at the Justice Department.
“Thanks to leaders in–and far beyond–this room,” said Holder, “our nation has made great strides in overcoming the obstacles and biases that too often affect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. And nowhere is this clearer than in the work of the Civil Rights Division.”
Holder hailed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009. He also championed the work the Justice Department has done to diversify its workforce and protect its LGBT employees. But like Secretary Kerry, the attorney general acknowledged the work the lies ahead.
“There are, as we all know, two important decisions the Supreme Court must render in the coming days,” said Holder. “Though we hope that the results of these cases are consistent with the core values that serve as the foundation of our great nation, the work that lies before us today will not be completed by favorable opinions...Important, life-changing work remains.”