Jun 9, 2021
Defense Department Pentagon LGBTQ Pride Event Speech Transcript 2021
Department of Defense officials gave speeches in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month on June 9, 2021. Read the transcript of the speech remarks here.
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Rudy Coots: (02:48)
I’m the Director of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance of the U.S. Space Force, Major General Leah Lauderback and the 21st Company Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy, Lieutenant Kris Moore. Please continue to remain standing for the singing of the National Anthem by Staff Sergeant Kyle Tomlin and the Invocation by Chaplain Major General Steven Schaick.
Rudy Coots: (03:09)
Steven Schaick: (04:52)
Thank you for the great privilege of being here this morning and participating in this important event. I invite you to pray with me.
Steven Schaick: (05:03)
Gracious God, as a heterosexual male, I have some confessing to do. I confess that I’ve let pomposity overshadow your righteousness. I’ve tolerated smugness over decency and arrogance over grace. Forgive me and others like me from a past void of inclusivity, for respect will always be the purest form of love. And so we thank you for this opportunity to celebrate the essential contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities to our Department of Defense.
Steven Schaick: (05:56)
We thank you that throughout history, you used the LGBT community to strengthen our nation’s defense and broaden diversity while adding a touch of creativity, joy, and celebration to all things. We ask that you strengthen those who struggle for acceptance. And may we heed the words of St. John, who said, “Friends, friends, since God went to such length to love us, we also ought to love one another.” And so we pray you smile upon this gathering and encourage my LGBT colleagues, for I pray in the name of the one from whom all blessings flow. Amen.
Rudy Coots: (06:59)
Please be seated and please join me in giving Staff Sergeant Tomlin around of applause for that wonderful rendition of our National Anthem. And Chaplain Schaick, thank you so much for being here today with us. Those assembled can surely take comfort and draw strength from the affirming message you have for us all here today. Thank you.
Rudy Coots: (07:28)
As the Chair of DoD Pride, I’d like to welcome everyone here in the Pentagon auditorium, and those who are joining us virtually around the world. DoD Pride is comprised of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civilians, service members, contractors, family members, and allies to the LGBTQ+ community.
Rudy Coots: (07:49)
This year’s ceremony is a little different due to COVID restrictions, but we’re so thankful that we can have a small audience here in the Pentagon and a much larger one joining us along on the web as we celebrate Pride Month. This event is an opportunity for the entire DoD community to come together and celebrate the great diversity of the American people and the enormous contributions LGBTQ service members and civilians around the world make in defense of this great nation.
Rudy Coots: (08:18)
This year’s celebration is particularly important because we’re celebrating two significant milestones, 10 years since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the end of the transgender ban. Each and every one of us has a story to tell about these milestones. Today, we’ll hear a few of those stories that I hope will inspire members of our community and our allies to join and build on the immense progress we’ve already made.
Rudy Coots: (08:43)
In addition to our three speakers, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Major General Leah Lauderback, and Lieutenant Kris Moore, I’d like to take a moment to welcome the other distinguished who are present with us today. Including Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Christine Wormuth, Secretary of the Army, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ms. Virginia Penrod, performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, General James McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army, General Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General J. Raymond, Chief of Space Force Operations.
Rudy Coots: (09:29)
Ms. Beth George, acting DoD General Counsel, Vice Admiral Michael Moran, Principal Military Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Navy for Research Development and Acquisition, Major General Iiams, acting Staff Director of the Marine Corps, Ramón “CZ” Colón-López, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman, Secretary Eric Fanning, 22nd Secretary of the Army, Mr. Gautam Raghavan, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Presidential Personnel, Mr. Thomas Zimmerman, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Personnel, and Mr. Alex Wagner, former Chief of Staff for the Secretary of the Army.
Rudy Coots: (10:12)
I also want to welcome all the service members and department personnel who are here with us today in the Pentagon and those joining us online. Thank you all for showing your support to LGBTQ soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, guardians, DoD civilians, and our families.
Rudy Coots: (10:29)
With that, it’s my great pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker for today, the Honorable Lloyd J. Austin III, the 28th Secretary of Defense. Secretary Austin served our nation for 41 years in the army, commanding at the corps, division, battalion, and brigade levels. He served as the Vice Chief of Staff for the Army and concluded his military career as the Commander of U.S. Central Command. So it goes without saying that he is a strong supporter of our service members, DoD civilians, and their families. And he’s always led embracing the values of dignity and respect.
Rudy Coots: (11:05)
He continues to carry those principles as he leads the Department of Defense and works to not only build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive force of uniformed and civilian members alike, but also to posture the department to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQ persons around the world in our engagements with partner nations, multilateral organizations, and foreign assistance programs. Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Secretary Austin.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (11:43)
Well, good morning, everybody. And Rudy, thank you for that kind introduction, and thanks for pulling us together. It’s pretty remarkable work that you’ve done over the last several weeks and months to pull this together, so let’s give Rudy a round of applause. And thanks to the DoD Pride group for bringing together this community at the Pentagon today.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (12:15)
As Rudy mentioned, it’s great to see such a tremendous array of the Department’s top leaders past and present, and these leaders are here today, obviously to support this important event. And it’s great to share the same stage with Major General Lauderback and Lieutenant Moore, who have served their country with distinction. And let me begin by thanking all of you for your service and for the tireless work that you do every day to defend this nation. And just as important, thank you to your spouses, partners and families, and some of whom are joining us today.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (13:01)
None of us could do what we do without your support and your sacrifices. And so this June, we celebrate Pride Month across the Department by recognizing the extraordinary achievements of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender service members and civilian employees as we reflect on the progress that we’ve made in making sure that everyone who wants to serve and is qualified can do so with dignity and respect.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (13:37)
We know that we have more work to do, but thanks to your courage, your advocacy and your dedication, the Department of Defense has been able to do more to secure LGBTQ+ rights than at any other time in our history. That includes efforts to ensure that all military families and spouses receive the benefits their loved ones have earned and to which they are entitled, to helping veterans who previously were forced out because of their sexual orientation to apply to correct their records, or where appropriate, to return to service.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (14:28)
It’s often said that progress is a relay race and not a single event, and that’s certainly been true when it comes to the pioneers who fought for this community’s civil rights in the military. Throughout American history, LGBTQ+ citizens have fought to defend our rights and freedoms. From the founding of our nation to the Civil War, from the trenches of the two World Wars to Korea and Vietnam, and from Afghanistan to Iraq, they fought for our country, even when our country wouldn’t fight for them and even as some were forced to hide who they were or to hang up their uniforms.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (15:27)
When I reflect on the hard-fought progress that has been made over the years, the efforts of a number of notable spring to mind. I’m thinking of heroes like retired Major Margaret Witt. She treated countless troops as a nurse during operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, and Enduring Freedom, before being outed against her will and discharged from the Air Force under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Now, Major Witt could have walked away, but instead she took a stand and challenged that policy in court, and her efforts contributed to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell more than a decade ago.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (16:21)
I’m thinking of Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, a decorated Vietnam veteran who inspired Major Witt. Now, he was only 19 when he volunteered to serve. He did three combat tours in Vietnam and was severely wounded in Da Nang. He earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the deep respect of his teammates. But when he came home and came out, he was discharged by the Air Force. So he took up a new fight in courtrooms across the country, a fight for his right to serve his country as an openly gay man.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (17:09)
And I’m thinking of Dr. Frank Kameny, a proud U.S. Army veteran of World War II. And Dr. Kameny was later hired as an astronomer for the Army Map Service, until he was fired in 1957 for being gay. And he later said that, “It felt like a declaration of war against him by his own government.” And then he said, “Like any true soldier would, I tend not to lose my wars.” And he wasn’t kidding.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (17:49)
Frank Kameny He spent the rest of his life at the forefront of the gay rights movement by mentoring the next generation of activists, including Leonard Matlovich, and by marching in protest and by founding the Mattachine Society of Washington, which is a pioneering gay rights advocacy organization. And in 1961, by bringing the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, Dr. Kameny lost that battle in court, but his activism helped set the stage for progress in the fight for full equality.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (18:41)
Of course, not every person in this story has been a member of this community. I’m thinking too of Admiral Mike Mullen, my good friend and mentor. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he took a courageous stand against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a stand that directly led to it’s repeal. And so today we commemorate 10 years since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and we welcome a new generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardians, and marines, openly and proudly serving their country. And today we can recognize and honor their contributions rather than questioning their ability to serve. And today we reaffirm that transgender rights are human rights and that America is safer and better when every qualified citizen can serve with pride and dignity.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (19:56)
Now that’s real progress. It was hard-fought and hard-won. But we’ve got more work to do and our work isn’t done until we tackle the challenge of sexual assault and harassment in force, and we know that service members from this community are at elevated risk of such crimes. And our work isn’t done until we recognize that the health of the force fully incorporates mental health, including for LGBTQ+ service members. And that’s why we recommit to treating all wounds, both visible and invisible.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (20:43)
And our work isn’t done until we create a safe and supportive workplace for everyone, free of discrimination, harassment, and fear. Because nobody should have to hide who they love to serve the country that they love and no service member who is willing to put their life on the line to keep our country safe should feel unsafe because of who they are. And no citizen who is qualified, willing, and able to do the job should be turned away.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (21:22)
So we’ve got more work to do, but I’m confident that we’ll get there because of all of you and because all of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender service members and civilians around the world who never stopped living the values that they sold bravely defend.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (21:43)
I know that you’re especially proud this month, and rightfully so. I’m proud too, proud every month and every day to call you my teammates and to serve alongside you. Because your lives and your careers and your service and your stories are living proof that we are stronger and more effective together. So thank you for your service and thank you for your skill and thank you for the change and the progress that you continue to lead. It matters greatly to the defense of this tremendous nation. Thank you very much.
Rudy Coots: (22:45)
Thank you, Secretary Austin, for your remarks today, recognizing the contributions of LGBTQ service members and civilians and that they have made towards national security each and …