(Senate - June 27, 2013)

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[Pages S5489-S5490]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                      CELEBRATING LGBT PRIDE MONTH

  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I rise today in recognition of Lesbian, 
Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, LGBT, Pride Month. This June we 
recognize the efforts of millions of Americans who have fought to 
extend liberty and justice to all, regardless of sexual orientation or 
gender identity. Members of the LGBT community have helped this country 
become a leader in so many fields.
  And today I also rise in celebration as a result of yesterday's 
decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. Loving families 
across our great Nation have now been made whole, as the Supreme Court 
upheld the core principle that all persons must be treated equally 
under the law.
  By striking down as unconstitutional the provision of the Defense of 
Marriage Act, DOMA, that limited federal marriage benefits to opposite 
sex couples, the Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no place for 
discrimination in America based on sexual orientation. Government 
should not interfere in the ability of men and women to marry the 
person they love, and they should be entitled to the same benefits as 
heterosexual couples, including tax benefits, rights of inheritance, 
health insurance, and legal marriage. The Federal Government--
especially Congress and the executive branch--should act quickly to 
comply with and fully implement this Supreme Court ruling, following 
the lead of a growing number of States including Maryland that give 
full recognition and equality to legal marriages of same-sex couples.
  Alongside their neighbors, LGBT individuals have been integral in 
forging this Nation into what it is today. Sadly, many members of the 
LBGT community encounter prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis. 
We cannot forget the events at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969. 
Shortly thereafter the modern day gay rights movement began to take 
  In the years since Stonewall, we have made progress in making ours a 
more just society. I am proud that 13 States--including Maryland by 
both legislative action and popular referendum--and the District of 
Columbia have voted to allow two consenting same-sex adults to enjoy 
all the happiness and privileges that come with marriage. I am proud 
that our men and women in uniform can no longer be told they cannot 
serve the country they love because of who they are in love with.
  I am proud that we passed legislation, the Matthew Shepard and James 
Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to expand the federal hate crimes 
law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived 
gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. I am proud that 
everyday more and more people support equal rights for all Americans.
  Despite all the progress we have made, we must always work harder to 
maintain the foundation of human rights on which this country is built. 
I believe that every American should have the opportunity to fulfill 
their American Dream. This is only possible when the government can 
provide robust civil rights for all citizens. There is still much that 
only we in Congress can do to make sure that every American enjoys the 
right of equal protection under the law.
  Right now in a majority of States, an individual can be fired for 
their sexual orientation or gender identity and have no legal recourse. 
The fact that someone can be fired for simply being who they are in the 
year 2013 cannot be accepted. I chair the U.S Helsinki Commission and 
sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, and I can tell you that human 
rights are directly linked to governmental guarantees and enforcement 
of equal protection.
  This June we should recognize the remarkable contributions LGBT 
Americans have made to this Nation. We should also take a moment to 
value all the hard work, sacrifice and determination that has defined 
the LGBT movement.
  The issues facing the LGBT community are important to all Americans. 
We are all harmed when homophobia trumps civility, and similarly we all 
succeed when we find strength in our diversity.
  We have work to do. Members of the LGBT community should feel free 
and safe to be who they are. Now is the time for all Americans 
regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity to come together in 
the spirit of moving the country forward. The LGBT community has been 
part of America's storied past, and will continue to be central to our 
perpetual goal of building a brighter future.
  Fifty years ago this month President Kennedy asked the Nation a 
simple question as the fight for civil rights raged across the country:
  ``The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be 
afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to 
treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.''
  The answer then, as it is now, should be a resounding yes.
  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, last week I was honored to celebrate the 
10th anniversary of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, 
PEPFAR, along with Secretary of State John Kerry; Global Aids 
Coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby; Senator Mike Enzi; Namibian Health 
Minister D. Richard Kamwi, and Tatu Msangi, a PEPFAR beneficiary and 
nurse from Tanzania.
  Ten years ago, AIDS threatened the very foundation of societies in 
Africa--creating millions of orphans, stalling economic development, 
and leaving countries stuck in poverty. Before

[[Page S5490]]

PEPFAR started in Namibia in 2004, Minister Kamwi explained, nearly one 
in four pregnant women in Namibia were infected with HIV, yet only a 
handful of them could access treatment. The circumstances were dire, 
and it was clear something needed to be done. The visionary leadership 
of President George W. Bush and the Congressional Black Caucus, 
especially the late Congressman Donald Payne Sr. and Congresswoman 
Barbara Lee, led to the establishment of the program in 2003 with an 
initial $15 billion to fight HIV and AIDS worldwide.
  Today, thanks to the ongoing, bipartisan U.S. commitment to PEPFAR, 
hope has replaced despair, life has replaced death, and productivity 
has replaced illness and disability. PEPFAR is the largest commitment 
by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and it has 
saved and improved millions of lives. Today Namibia's mother-to-child 
HIV transmission rate at 6 weeks is less than 3 percent. Thanks to 
PEPFAR, Ms. Msangi, is healthy enough to help treat and counsel HIV 
patients, and her daughter Faith was born HIV-free, representing the 
best of what this remarkable program has to offer.
  This bipartisan program is a tremendous success, having exceeded 
every one of its initial goals. PEPFAR directly supports nearly 5.1 
million people on antiretroviral treatment, and has contributed to a 
20-percent reduction in new HIV infections globally. This month, the 
program reached a remarkable milestone when the one-millionth infant 
was born HIV-free, thanks to PEPFAR. Thirteen countries have reached a 
crucial tipping point--where annual new adult HIV infections are below 
the annual increase in adults on antiretroviral drug treatment. And we 
are building capacity for recipient nations to address the problem. We 
have helped improve host country health care delivery systems, and 
countries are now taking ownership in their responsibility to care for 
their people.
  I authored an amendment to PEPFAR's 2008 reauthorization bill that 
supports in-country health worker training for people like Ms. Msangi, 
which U.S. universities and NGOs support along with other elements of 
the program. Research being done by Maryland institutions--including 
the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins University, and the 
University of Maryland--is making a difference globally; and Maryland 
NGO's like Catholic Relief Services of Baltimore are partnering with us 
in this global fight.
  Yet despite the remarkable progress that these partnerships have 
produced, we still have challenges ahead of us. According to UNAIDS, an 
estimated 1.7 million people are dying annually from AIDS-related 
causes. Global health and development resources are being squeezed due 
to difficult economic times. And issues of stigma and discrimination 
continue to limit access to treatment and care to those in need.
  The U.S. will continue to lead this global fight, but we need the 
commitment and leadership of partner countries--reinforced with support 
from donor nations, civil society, people living with HIV, faith-based 
organizations, the private sector, foundations, and the Global Fund--in 
order to see an HIV-free generation in our lifetime.
  PEPFAR represents the best of what our government can do when we put 
aside partisanship for the good of humanity. It represents the very 
best of America and our commitment to global humanitarian values. It is 
a testament to the power of thinking big and of dreaming big, and we 
must continue to do just that to conquer this disease once and for all.