U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

June 29, 2024

From Riots to Rainbows

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

This weekend, we wrap up Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month. Marylanders have packed a lot into these 30 days – from the June 1 Westminster Pride Festival to the June 30 Pride in the Plaza in Silver Spring. In between, there were more than a dozen Pride parades from Annapolis to Salisbury to Cumberland and everywhere in between. Baltimore has one of the longest-running Pride celebrations in the state.

These commemorations and opportunities for representation are important, as long as we celebrate with a clear understanding that LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms must be protected 365/24/7. ‘Love is love’ every day of the year and not only during Pride Month.

Just like most civil rights movements, Pride Month has a deep history and to understand the movement means to understand its roots. Protecting a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community has always been present, but it wasn’t always rainbows and glitter.

The first Pride was born out of the Stonewall Uprising, which took place in 1969 after police conducted one of many violent raids at the Stonewall Inn, a New York City bar known as a place of refuge for members of the LGBTQ+ community. The raid and the ensuing riot in response nearly destroyed the Stonewall Inn and sparked a series of protests against the police’s brutality.

In the face of such violence and discrimination, a group of gay rights organizers responded by commemorating the first anniversary of the uprising with a march to celebrate the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. Five decades later, we continue to strive toward equality and inclusion for this community in all aspects of life. While we have many victories to celebrate, such as the 2015 Supreme Court Obergefell decision guaranteeing marriage equality, we still have much to do.

Maryland has a long history of welcoming members of the LGBTQ+ community. I am proud to represent a state that is inclusive of all and takes real action to prove it. Among other actions, last year, Maryland Governor Wes Moore issued an executive order to protect access to gender-affirming care, a huge win for transgender and nonbinary Marylanders.

Though, I am dismayed by a growing movement across the country to suppress the rights of LGBTQ+ people and reverse our nation’s hard-won progress. We have a responsibility to uphold the rights and freedoms of all Americans as legislative attacks on this community increase across the country. Laws that aim to codify hate and discrimination need to be challenged not only with our hearts, but through proactive protection of civil rights.

In particular, we must defend transgender children, their parents, and the right to access gender-affirming care and other support services. Attacks on personal autonomy that use the mantle of religious freedom to sanction official discrimination are unacceptable. In 2024, we as the United States Congress must rebuke these efforts not only with words, but with action.

The energy with which an alarming number of local and state legislators craft legislation that targets transgender individuals should be channeled into other efforts that would help, not harm, our people. I am proud to support several pieces of legislation that would expand LGBTQ+ individuals’ access to a wide range of resources and protections.

We hear a lot of talk about the importance of protecting our children but have yet to take serious action to hold so-called “conversion therapy providers” accountable for abuse and fraud. I am proud to cosponsor Senator Murray’s Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act to protect children from these fraudulent organizations.

Another bill I am proud to support is the bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act, led by Senator Casey, that would ensure K-12 students across America could receive age-appropriate education to prevent all forms of bullying and harassment. Bullying can lead to tragic outcomes like the loss of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died this March after being severely bullied at school for their gender identity.

Eradicating homophobia in our nation starts with an honest education on the past and present of the LGBTQ+ community. Senator Casey’s bill presents an opportunity to protect our youth from ignorance and its dire consequences.

I co-sponsored the Equality Act, offered by Senator Merkley, to prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identify with respect to businesses, employment, housing, federally funded programs, and other settings.

All Americans should be treated equally under the law — no matter who they love or how they identify. LGBTQ+ individuals deserve to be afforded every right and protection granted to their neighbors. Members of this community should feel safe enough to be themselves and are entitled to the respect and recognition we expect for every human being.

This June serves as a reminder that we have to remember the importance of fighting all forms of attack against the LGBTQ+ always. No hate crimes or state-sanctioned discrimination will ever be tolerated by myself, and I expect the same from my fellow Americans.

Our nation must not allow individual intolerance to derail the right to dignity to which every American is entitled. It is imperative the United States of America uphold the values of tolerance, compassion, freedom upon which we claim to stand.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on LGBTQ+ Pride or any topic. I appreciate all of the feedback we receive.

In solidarity,

Ben Cardin