Press Release

June 20, 2024
Cardin Recognizes Pride Month 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Special Representative on Antisemitism, Racism and Intolerance for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,submitted the following remarks into the official Congressional Record in celebration of Pride Month:

“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,” said Chair Cardin.

A copy of the Chair’s full remarks is provided below.  

I rise today in recognition of the 54th anniversary of Pride Month. I’d first like to take a moment to acknowledge how much progress has been made in the span of just a half century.

The first Pride was born out of the Stonewall Uprising, which took place in 1969 after police conducted a violent raid 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 that night.

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.

I am proud to represent a state that is known to be welcoming to members of the LGBTQ+ community. 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.

This year, Maryland is hosting over a dozen local Pride parades and celebrations, from Hagerstown to Salisbury and everywhere in between. And this past weekend, we celebrated Pride in my home city of Baltimore, which has one of the longest-running Pride celebrations in the nation.

However, 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. Therefore, we must not stand by idly as legislative attacks on this community increase across the country. Laws that aim to codify hate and discrimination are despicable. We must challenge this hate not only with our hearts, but through the 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.

There have been recent efforts by some Members of Congress to use the annual appropriations bill as a vehicle to ban the use of federal funds for gender-affirming care and DEI initiatives. I urge my colleagues to remember the commitment we have to our nation to ensure liberty and justice for all. 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. I am particularly proud to be a cosponsor of Senator Murray’s Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. 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.

The scientific literature increasingly agrees that “conversion therapy,” which claims to be able to change a person’s sexual or gender identity through various interventions, simply does not work. Furthermore, these practices are strongly associated with adverse mental health effects, such as anxiety, depression, and suicide, in people who have been through conversion programs. With Senator Murray’s Bill, we can — and will — prevent further traumatization of our LGBTQ+ youth and their families.

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.

We already know statistically that LGBTQ+ children and teens across America are at disproportionate risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Instead of enabling the discrimination that is so damaging to our kids’ mental health, we should be working to turn those statistics around so that more children, like Nex, get the chance to grow up and pursue their dreams.

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 am also proud to co-sponsor the Equality Act, offered by Senator Merkley. This legislation would 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. I am a proud ally who will continue to fight all forms of attack against the LGBTQ+ community. No hate crimes or state-sanctioned discrimination will ever be tolerated by myself, and I expect the same of my colleagues and fellow Americans.

The United States Senate must challenge intolerance and safeguard civil rights for LGBTQ+ individuals everywhere.

Our nation must not allow individual opinions 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.

And we certainly cannot overshadow the bravery, joy, and resistance to societal regression that so many LGBTQ+ individuals and activists have demonstrated. I am committed to growing federal support and increasing resources to safeguard civil rights for this community. I believe that I have an obligation, not just as a Senator from Maryland, but as a human being, to do so. And I look forward to continuing to work, not just this Pride Month but every day of the year, toward equality for all.