U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben


Searching for Rainbows

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

Pride is celebrated throughout June, when the weather is warm, spirits are high and school is out, but lately it has been far from sunshine and signature rainbows for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community. 

I am proud that Maryland continues to be a refuge and relatively safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals, but nationwide – this year alone – more than 525 bills were introduced in 41 states that target this community. Astoundingly, a record 77 of these bills have been signed into law – and we are only 10 days into June.

I say that this number astounds me because it truly does. I believe that government – federal, state and local – has a responsibility to protect the rights and the safety of our citizens. Government should not be legislating discrimination or mandating that an individual’s self-identity or most personal actions be questioned.

Rather than working to protect children from gun violence or expand health care for individuals in need, local legislators bankrolled and goaded on by extremists groups are leaning in with fear-based tactics to shrink rights and make life less safe for LGBTQ+ families and individuals.

Children are being bullied by adults and so-called community leaders and it’s simply wrong.

The situation has gotten so bad that several of the nation’s largest civil rights groups recently advised LGBTQ+ people against traveling to Florida due to new laws that target the community. A few days ago, the Human Rights Campaign declared its first-ever national state of emergency. This week, Gov. Wes Moore signed into law protections for gender-affirming care for the nearly 100,000 transgender and nonbinary residents of Maryland, but in many other states, the opposite has been the norm as gender-affirming care has been restricted. Far-right extremists who are desperate for a villain in their make-believe stories are demonizing drag queens.

It’s easy to forget that Pride celebrations take place in June to commemorate the riots that broke out on June 28, 1969 after yet another predatory police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. At the time, homosexual acts were illegal in every state except Illinois, and gay bars, the one place where LGBTQ+ people could feel safe to openly express their sexuality, became targets. 

The bar was nearly destroyed, and dozens were injured, but the groundwork for civil rights and progress had been laid by a group of LGBTQ+ people who decided that they had enough. They knew it was society, not them, that needed to change.

In the decades since, advocates have fueled victories and endured heartbreaks, triumphing over adversity while never losing sight of a better future. We saw this firsthand last December, when same-sex marriage became federally protected after President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law. This was an important step forward on our unfinished march for civil rights and a more perfect union that guarantees equal rights and equal justice under the law for all Americans. It was made possible by the brave actions of tireless supporters.

As the fight picks up at the state and local levels, we continue to fight in Congress for federal policies like the Equality Act, which would amend the landmark anti-discrimination laws to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to longstanding bans on discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, federal funding and more. I am also proud that in this Congress, a bipartisan majority of the United States Senate voted for my resolution to affirm the validity of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This constitutional amendment, which has been ratified by the required 38 states, would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and provide firm constitutional backing for the Equality Act and other protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.

Tenacious groups like the Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign and ACLU are pushing back against the hate through education campaignssafe spaces and crisis lines to LGBTQ+ youths and advocacy work in statehouses across the country and Congress.

It is easy to understand why many LGBTQ+ persons are anxious and afraid right now, but they should know that they are not alone. They are seen and heard and have allies standing by their side.

This month and 365 days a year, working together, we will create a brighter and bolder, safer and more stable reality for everyone’s colors on the rainbow. Happy Pride 2023.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with any feedback on this or any other topic.


Ben Cardin