Thank you so much.
Thank you, Christine for your friendship and your exceptional leadership in our quest for fairness for the people of New York City and for LGBT people in this country and around the world.
I'm honored to accept this award…and humbled to be here with Karen Atala who turned her personal experience as a lesbian mother into a political movement that is changing the courts and the culture in Chile.
I'm also honored to recognize in our audience Val Kalende, one of the founders of the gay rights movement in Uganda. Val risks great danger – even death – in her country for being a lesbian. Just a short while ago there were no LGBT advocacy groups in Uganda, but now, Val tells us there are 44 groups supporting LGBT rights in her country. And thanks to Val and other courageous allies in that country, the number continues to grow.
Val's and Karen's stories are such powerful reminders that even in a vast, tumultuous world, a single individual has the power to create positive change.
A fire may be sparked by one person, but it is the constant fuel added by first a few supporters, then hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands, that can change the landscape of a culture, a country, a continent.
That is the essence of IGLHRC! Julie Dorf's vision and activism, powered by the support and hard work of Jessica and the staff and all who preceded them, of the board members, past and present, and of the sponsors – but, most important, by the bravery of LGBT men and women in countries around the world who face persecution, even death for being who they are, yet choose to stand and fight – to confront their adversaries and enlist allies from home and abroad to ensure that their human rights are respected.
They are the experts on the ground whose experiences and input guide our efforts and help us channel our resources to where they're needed most.
Governments, too, can play an invaluable role. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the world last year that "gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights," she added fuel to the fire.
When President Obama made protecting the human rights of LGBT people abroad a national policy, he added fuel to the fire.
When I enlisted colleagues in the House to champion the human rights of LGBT people in Iraq and Uganda, in Honduras and Moldova…when we successfully asked the UN to grant IGLHRC NGO consultative status, we added fuel to the fire.
Congress may have low approval ratings right now, but I can tell you that when Members of Congress or our President or Secretary of State call attention to human rights abuses abroad, leaders and their people listen and respond. It just so happens that foreign governments don't particularly like it when we call them out and bring the eyes of the world to human rights abuses in their countries.
Ambassador Susan Rice and my friend – your Board Co-Chair – Todd Larson added fuel to the fire at the UN. Even before the Human Rights Council adopted a landmark resolution recognizing the human rights of LGBT people, Todd worked tirelessly to change internal policy to protect LGBT employees.
Fueled by the courage of people like Karen Atala and Val Kalende, the faith and support of all of you and allies around the world, and the efforts of IGLHRC, the fire for human rights for LGBT people burns more brightly than ever.
But, let's not kid ourselves. There is a long, long way to go. We will continue to feel the pain of human suffering even as we take pride in every success. But we must never doubt that our cause is just.
Those words...never doubt…are something of a mantra for me in my political career. They're what keep me going when the road ahead looks too long and too fraught with obstacles. In my Congressional offices in Washington DC and in Wisconsin, I have framed and displayed a quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead which reads:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
You are those thoughtful, committed citizens who are changing our world by fighting for LGBT human rights…and I thank you.