Berry Delivers Stirring Pride Speech
BY Kerry Eleveld
June 11 2009 12:00 AM ET
Those who witnessed the address said it profoundly impacted the audience, partly due to Berry's candor but also because of his standing within the administration as the human resources manager of about 1.9 million federal employees.
"His position allows him to understand the complexities of government work, the challenges facing LGBT employees, and the distance we have yet to travel in order to reach full equality," said Chris Hook, a budget analyst who is president of Department of Justice Pride. "His presence and his words serve as an inspiration and reminder to all LGBT employees in federal service that he too shares our goals and our frustrations while providing hope that this administration will take the necessary steps to ensure equality for all."
Vic Basile, a longtime LGBT activist who now serves as special counselor to the director at OPM, said Berry definitely had his audience in mind when he wrote this speech. The Department of Justice is currently mulling a number of LGBT issues, including legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and "don't ask, don't tell," but it is also reviewing personnel policies that might be made more LGBT-friendly without congressional oversight.
"He knows he has the ear of a lot of people who are decision makers," Basile said. "He knew he had an opportunity to reach people at very high levels and on very human terms, and he did so in ways that I think anybody can understand."
Full text of John Berry's speech as prepared for delivery below:
Thank you. It's good to be here at the Department of Justice. I deeply appreciate the work you do and thank you for your service to our country. Thank you, Mr. Attorney General, for your leadership in continuing this wonderful tradition of celebrating Gay Pride. And thank you, Chris Hook, for the kind introduction. It's an honor to be with you all today.
I'm so glad that you're honoring Dr. Frank Kameny today. In 1957, two years before I was born, Dr. Kameny, a veteran and Ph.D. astronomer from Harvard, was fired from his civil service job solely for his sexual orientation. In one letter to him, an agency official wrote that the Government "does not hire homosexuals and will not permit their employment..." He went on to say that "the homosexual is automatically a security risk" and that he "frequently becomes a disruptive personnel factor within any organization."
With the fervent passion of a true patriot, Frank did not resign himself to his fate or quietly endure his wrong. He fought back. After 20 years, he achieved the goal he sought: The repudiation of the Government's policy of formal and unfounded discrimination.