Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin: LGBT Millennium March on Washington, DC
Delivered on the National Mall to Thousands of Marchers and a Worldwide Audience
April 30, 2000
If I close my eyes, I can remember being here in 1987. I came to this city, this historic place, these steps. Why did I march? I was twenty-five years old and just one year into my first term in elective office in. I was OUT. I was at the point in my life where I had just realized that I did not have to choose between being honest about who I am and pursuing the career of my dreams. I could do both. And that moment of decision was, at once, one of the most terrifying and one of the most freeing of my life. So I marched …to replace my fear with courage, my isolation with belonging, my anger with hope.
If I close my eyes, I can remember being here in 1993. I came to this city, this historic place, these steps. Why did I march? I was thirty-one years old and had just been elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature. I had just gotten a touching glimpse of the power of our visibility. After a statewide news story announced that I was the first openly gay or lesbian person to be elected to state-level office in Wisconsin, I received a telephone call from a young man. His voice was wavering. He was from Northern Wisconsin and he said, “I read the story and I feel differently about myself today.” So I marched…so that he and others might be able to replace fear with courage, isolation with belonging, anger with hope.
If I close my eyes again, I can remember coming to this city, this historic place, these steps in January, 1999. Only this time, I climbed these steps to take the oath of office. And as I climbed those steps, I remembered all those who had marched and mobilized — those who helped pave the way for my election and the election of those who will come after me. You are with me every time I pass through those doors. And the lessons learned from you, from my participation in this civil rights movement, and from organizing against AIDS are now being applied, empowering me as I fight everyday the battle for health care for all, increasing educational opportunities, and fighting for many others who lack a voice in our democracy.
Now, with open eyes, I am experiencing this march. I come to this city, this historic place, these steps. I’m 38 years old and I’m a Member of Congress. Why do I march? I march to challenge the naysayers, the cynics, and the keepers of the status quo. And I march for a promising, inspiring, and incredible new generation…so they might replace their fear with courage, their isolation with belonging, their anger with hope. And I can say with conviction: Never doubt that there is reason to be hopeful.
NEVER DOUBT that Congress will pass legislation that expands the definition of hate crimes.
NEVER DOUBT that the states will grant us equal rights, including all the rights afforded couples through marriage.
NEVER DOUBT that we will enact legislation ensuring non-discrimination in the workplace.
NEVER DOUBT that America will one day realize that her gay, bisexual, and transgendered sons and daughters want nothing more — and nothing less — than the rights accorded every other citizen.
BUT WE MUST MAKE IT SO – by daring to dream of a world in which we are free. So, if you dream of a world in which you can put your partner’s picture on your desk, then put his picture on your desk…and you will live in such a world.
And if you dream of a world in which you can walk down the street holding your partner’s hand, then hold her hand…and you will live in such a world.
If you dream of a world in which there are more openly gay elected officials, then run for office…and you will live in such a world.
And if you dream of a world in which you can take your partner to the office party, even if your office is the U.S. House of Representatives, then take her to the party. I do, and now I live in such a world.
Remember, there are two things that keep us oppressed … them and us. We are half of the equation. There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now OK to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly…first in small numbers, then in greater numbers, until it’s simply the way things are and no one thinks twice.
NEVER DOUBT that we will create this world, because, my friends, we are fortunate to live in a democracy; and in a democracy, WE decide what’s possible!