The Justice Department and gay rights activists have a “common cause,” U.S. attorney general Eric Holder told a gathering of LGBT lawyers Thursday night, calling on his audience to employ their “considerable passion and expertise” to achieve further progress.
Holder was the keynote speaker at the LGBT Bar Association’s annual Lavender Law Conference in Washington, D.C. He addressed about 1,000 attendees at the Washington Hilton.
He highlighted the Obama administration’s actions on LGBT rights, including repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court cases, and efforts to address antigay bullying in schools, the Washington Blade reports.
“Thanks to the work of tireless 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 and protect the civil rights of all Americans,” he said. “For President Obama, for me, and for our colleagues at every level of the Obama administration, this work has long been a top priority.”
He told attendees that they are “uniquely situated to use the power of the law” to fight for LGBT equality. “You have not only the power, but — I believe — the solemn responsibility, to do precisely that: to safeguard the rights and freedoms of everyone in this country, and to carry on the critical but unfinished work that lies ahead,” Holder said.
Holder received standing ovations on his entrance and exit. “This is not starting out like one of my congressional hearings,” he joked after his enthusiastic welcome, the Daily Caller reports.
Several audience members praised Holder’s address. “He did a great job of highlighting the work the administration has done on behalf of the community and highlighting that there’s work left to be done,” Immigration Equality spokesman Steve Ralls told the Blade. Concerning further action needed, Ralls noted, “Immigration Equality has a number of outstanding asks to the attorney general and other cabinet agencies. We remain optimistic that the record of this administration will continue in the direction of progress. We hope by this time next year, we’ll hear about all the great couples that are getting green cards.”
Watch the full speech below, courtesy of C-SPAN.