The Power of Out

Ed. Note: This is a cross-post from the Department of Justice blog.

In the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, senior officials, employees and invited guests joined Attorney General Eric Holder to celebrate the accomplishments of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Americans and their allies during the department’s annual LGBT Pride Month Program.   The theme of the event was “The Power of Out,” based on a study by the same name from the Center for Work-Life Policy, which quantifies the loss to individuals and to the bottom line when organizations fail to create a workplace hospitable to their LGBT employees.

The program began with Marc Salans, President of DOJ Pride, opening the ceremony and introducing a video clip from President Barack Obama regarding LGBT Pride Month.  Attorney General Holder spoke about the department’s efforts to defend the civil rights of LGBT Americans and increase support for LGBT individuals working for the department.

The Attorney General also introduced Chai Felbum, Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  She, along with Attorney General Holder, both acknowledged progress made to ensure civil rights for all Americans and the need to do more.  

Attorney General Holder:

There’s no question that we have much to celebrate – and much to be proud of – as we gather today.   But there can also be little doubt that, when it comes to making good on the promise of equality for every American, the hard work is far from over.  

Artists from the Woolly Mammoth Theatre of Washington, D.C. performed a scene from 8, a play based on the federal district court case filed by American Foundation for Equal Rights to overturn Proposition 8, which eliminated gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry in California in 2008.

To conclude the program, DOJ Pride presented its Gerald B. Roemer Community Service Award and its James R. Douglass Award to recognize outstanding contributions to the LGBT community and to the work-life environment for the department’s LGBT employees.  Recipients of the Roemer Award included legal teams from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, and student plaintiffs from the Anoka-Hennepin School District for their success in resolving harassment of middle and high school students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota.   

The Douglass Award was presented to Diana Flynn, Chief, Appellate Section, of the Civil Rights Division.  Ms. Flynn has been a passionate advocate for the civil rights of all people, but has taken a particular interest in ensuring that the department uses all of the tools at its disposal to protect equal rights for LGBT individuals.   As one of the longest-serving chiefs in the Civil Rights Division, she has been able to contribute significantly to the debate on the full range of LGBT issues with which the department has grappled over the years.

Read the Attorney General’s full remarks from the event

Tracy Russo is a spokesperson and directer of new media strategy at the United States Department of Justice.

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