U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at Lambda Legal 14th Annual Reception in Nation's Capitol

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June 11, 2014
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Last night, Lambda Legal hosted its 14th annual Washington, D.C. reception at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States and Kevin Cathcart, Lambda Legal Executive Director, were the featured speakers.

Kevin Cathcart said:

It's an exciting moment in history to be in Washington, D.C. We have made an amazing amount of progress and each year we are in a better position than the year before. The leadership and support demonstrated by Attorney General Holder and the administration of President Obama have played and continue to play a key role in that progress. But make no mistake, there is still a lot of work to do before LGBT people and people with HIV can live free of discrimination in this country. Lambda Legal is going to continue to do that work until we achieve full equality.

Attorney General Holder said:

For the Department of Justice, and for me personally, the fight for civil rights and LGBT equality remains a top priority. We will continue to rely on Lambda Legal's steadfast commitment to advancing equality for LGBT people and those living with HIV.

In his remarks last night Attorney General Holder took issue with the anti-gay policy of the Boy Scouts:

And in far too many organizations, policies and practices that discriminate against LGBT individuals remain persistent concerns. Lambda Legal is among the groups that have led efforts to address these conditions - for instance, through your work in 1992, in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, to challenge the termination of an Assistant Scoutmaster when the organization found out he was gay. Unfortunately, the continuation of a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders - by an iconic American institution - only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes.  Like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," it's a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding. Today, courageous lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line as members of America's armed services.  They inspire us, they protect us, and they defend us. And if these men and women are fit for military service, then surely they are fit to mentor, to teach, and to serve as role models for the leaders of future generations.

In February, 2011, Attorney General Holder announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would no longer defend cases involving Section 3 of the so-called federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. He had recommended this course of action to the President, arguing that laws that discriminate based upon sexual orientation should be subjected to a heightened level of constitutional scrutiny, and that Section 3 failed that test and was therefore unconstitutional. The following year, Mr. Holder reaffirmed his position and stated that the DOJ would not defend DOMA in a legal challenge brought by members of the U.S. military who were seeking benefits for their same-sex spouses. After the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 in June 2013, the Obama Administration rewrote federal rules to allow same-sex couples to file taxes together and receive Medicare and other benefits reserved for married couples.

This February, Mr. Holder issued a formal policy memo instructing employees that it is the Justice Department's policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible and to treat all individuals equally regardless of sexual orientation, thereby extending to same-sex couples for the first time the spousal privilege rule which prevents spouses from being forced to testify against each other in court cases and criminal investigations. Mr. Holder has also advocated for the interests of the 6,000 same-sex partnerships where Americans are in relationships with non-US citizens, and has declared that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws that they believe are discriminatory. His impact on the LGBT community has been widespread.

Read the press release.