ATLANTA — Coming off a string of successes, LGBT activists were warned today against complacency.
During her annual State of the Movement Address to the 3,000 attendees of the 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality in Atlanta, Georgia, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said the 2012 election yielded "a record number seven out members of Congress," "beat back marriage opponents in Minnesota," and "won marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington State," but added that LGBT Americans must "resist the pressure to become smaller, to narrow our sights, to be lulled into thinking we are near the end of our work."
Carey declared, "We are family, and we will not leave any of you behind!" By "family," Carey meant the countless activists who have fought for LGBT rights over the Task Force's 40-year history as well as the many LGBT citizens who need legal protection beyond that offered by legal marriage equality.
"If there is one message we can take away from Election Night 2012," Carey said, "it is that we are not alone. We are not alone as a movement, as a people, and we need to make sure no one else is alone either. ... We must choose as a basic moral value, never to leave any of our movement’s family behind."
Among those still needing legal protection in the nation, Carey included those who choose not to get married, schoolchildren in need of comprehensive antibullying policies, transgender immigrant detainees who face sexual and physical abuse in federal detention facilities, trans people who can still be refused a hotel room or hospital care without public accommodations laws, any LGBT person living in a state without marriage equality or employment protections, and those suffering due to skyrocketing HIV rates.
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Carey also highlighted the need to support those fighting for immigration, reproductive, labor, and economic rights. and reiterated, as she has in past years, that "we are not a one-issue movement."
"We will never be whole, we will never be free, until every single one of us feels safe to express ourselves sexually, intellectually, and spiritually and finds support in our homes, places of worship, and workplaces."
She then unveiled the steps the NGLTF will take in the coming year to help fight inequality:
- As of today, the NGLTF has opened the Organizing Academy, a new, free online grassroots training program that pledges to train and support more than 1,000 grassroots activists annually.
- Carey promised to "push the president to issue an executive order to protect LGBT people working for federal contractors ... until Congress gets their act together and passes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act."
- She pledged "to finish the work of burying 'don’t ask, don’t tell' by allowing transgender people to serve openly and same-sex married service members to get the same benefits as their straight peers."
- Carey said the NGLTF "will continue to play a leadership role in partnering with immigration rights organizations in advocating for the many areas of comprehensive immigration reform that affect our community, including security for binational same-sex couples, respectful and appropriate treatment of transgender and HIV-positive immigrants, and ensuring that families are not separated for years on end as a result of our immigration laws," adding that "creating a path to citizenship is an LGBT issue."
- Lastly, Carey said, "In the coming months the Task Force and our colleagues at the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center will be sharing with the movement post-election research we conducted that takes a hard look at how voters actually behave across ballot measure issues like marriage, immigration, taxes, and education. Our analysis will not only help us as a movement to be smart about when we put forth ballot measures but on exactly which voters will vote for and against them based on how they vote on other issues."
"I challenge us to take to heart the words family, love, and commitment," Carey said. "Let’s not restrict or limit them to one view of what our families are supposed to look like. Let family and love and commitment expand our lives, not restrain them."
"We want a family that understands, that has our back, that picks us up when we need it, that pushes us further when we tire, a family that walks in the door when everyone else has walked out," Carey said.
"And those who seek to divide us, need to take a look at this room. More than 3,000, out, proud, determined, not intimidated and not going anywhere, here in Atlanta, reaffirming our chosen family — our bonds of love together. Nothing can divide us."