Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
Human Rights Campaign Foundation
3rd Annual "Time to Thrive Conference"
Friday, February 12, 2016
Grapevine, TX

As prepared for delivery

Thank you Jazz [Jennings] for that kind introduction, for your moving words, and for your great example as an activist and entrepreneur. I have a young daughter back at home, so I hope it's alright if I ask you to autograph my program for her after the ceremony's over! 

I'd also like to acknowledge all the inspiring speakers, honorees, and Youth Ambassadors here this evening. And I want to thank the Human Rights Campaign for inviting me to this amazing event. 

We've gathered here at a crucial moment. A time when every American is asked take a stand. 

Today, there are those striving to make our nation more progressive, and more inclusive for all Americans, and those who cling to the prejudice and oppression of the past.

Too often today, we hear politicians preaching the language of bigotry, or read about violence perpetrated against members of the LGBT community. 

We can see this clash playing out right here in the DFW community. Now I'm from Texas, and I've seen firsthand the tolerance and compassion of people in Dallas. And yet the Oak Lawn neighborhood has also experienced more than a dozen hate crimes in the past few months alone.

This isn't just the movement of LBGT Americans. It's the movement of all Americans, of all human beings who believe in fairness and in equality for all.

So it's an honor to be with you tonight. We have so many folks in this room who have been trailblazers in ways big and small. Champions for equality, right on the frontlines of this fight. Because of you and so many others, our nation has made tremendous progress.  

And yet today, in 2016, we know we have to keep working.

Every day, too many young people across our nation wake up feeling hopeless and alone, forced to live in fear simply because of who they are. And every day, you're there to offer them safety, acceptance, and hope.

Your work transforms lives, and it empowers people like Hannah, a young woman from Atlanta who's triumphed over incredible adversity. 

Hannah was raised by an abusive mother who threatened to hurt her just because Hannah wasn't “girlie enough.” One day, Hannah came home to find a police officer waiting at her bedroom door. She was told she had to leave. Hannah's mom didn't want her in the house anymore because of her sexual orientation. So her parents handed her a $20 bill, and sent her on her way. 

Over the next three years, Hannah went from one homeless shelter to another. On many nights, she slept with a knife under her pillow because she feared for her safety. And on nights when she couldn't find room at a shelter, she slept on the streets. Sometimes, she woke-up to maggots living in her hair. 

Hannah wanted to work. But as you can imagine, it's hard to interview for jobs while living in such conditions. So she sold drugs just to make a few dollars, and thought about turning to prostitution when that wasn't enough to get by.   

But even in the midst of such hardship, Hannah showed extraordinary resolve. And she never gave up on herself. 

What she needed was someone to believe in her, and to help her. Thankfully, she got that help from Lost-n-Found Youth, a nonprofit that serves homeless LGBT youth, and that's been honored by the HRC for its incredible work.

The good folks at Lost-n-Found gave Hannah stable housing, and a support system that told her she was worthy of love and of respect. She soon got a steady job with UPS, developed a close group of friends, and started saving for her own apartment, steps that helped her lay the foundation for a brighter future.  

Hannah's story is an inspiration, a testament to her unbreakable spirit, and to the impact you make. 

But as you know better than I do, for every story like Hannah's, for every person who finds their way, there are too many others that we have yet to reach. Too many children taught to hate themselves by the intolerant and the ignorant. Too many children who take their own lives because of confusion and despair.

In the face of such persecution, LGBT Americans need the unwavering support of those who believe in equality.

That's why I'm honored to serve under President Barack Obama, who's done more than any other person that's sat in the Oval Office to bring about full equality for LGBT Americans. He repealed “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” he's worked to expand protections for same-sex couples, and he's welcomed the first openly transgender staffer to the White House. 

In fact, the President has made LGBT rights one of this Administration's greatest priorities. And as HUD Secretary, I have the privilege of helping to carry out his mission. 

America faces a growing crisis in youth homelessness. And as many as 40 percent of all homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. So HUD partnered with the True Colors Fund and other federal agencies to support LGBT youth who've run away or been thrown-out of their homes. Innocent people like Hannah, who shouldn't be treated as outcasts.

We also know that transgender Americans often encounter unfair obstacles when they seek help from homeless shelters. And to address this injustice, HUD recently published new guidance to ensure that people aren't turned away from shelters based on their gender identity, or forced to endure conditions that degrade their dignity and their safety. 

Since 2012, we've also required every program that receives HUD funding to make their services available to all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.  

And about 20 states have now passed local laws that prohibit both public and private parties from denying housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That's meaningful progress, and we need to keep making more. 

More-than-half of all LGBT Americans still live in places that don't offer them such rights. In the past, HUD has pressed for clearer protections for LGBT Americans under our federal housing law. 

I'm proud to say that we're now enforcing the Fair Housing Act against landlords that discriminate against transgender Americans based on their gender identity. And following recent decisions made by federal agencies and by courts around the nation, I've instructed my team to examine our authority to protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans in the same manner. 

We won't stand on the sidelines while members of the LGBT community continue to suffer injustice. 

That's because equality can't wait. Civil rights can't wait. Human rights can't wait. Not in the United States of America. 

One generation after another has fought greater rights. For women, for workers, for communities of color. We are the nation of Bayard Rustin and of Ella Baker, of Harvey Milk and of Edith Windsor. And achieving equality for LGBT Americans is one of the most important movements of our time. 

Its victories have occurred in many places and in many forms. On the streets of Greenwich Village outside the Stonewall Inn. In the halls of government when Congress passed the Matthew Sheppard Act. On the steps of the Supreme Court when our nation declared that all Americans have the right to marry the person they love. And through the lens of our popular culture, where figures like Jazz Jennings, Bob Harper, and Ellen DeGeneres have inspired millions.

But many of the movement's victories haven't made the national news. They were everyday victories achieved by people like you. Young people who've overcome incredible odds, and dedicated advocates in this fight for equality.

Thank you for all that you've done, and for all that I know you'll continue to do. I know each person in this room will keep-on fighting - in state houses and city halls, in board rooms and in the halls of Congress - until the battle for full equality is finally won.

Because while we live in a time of great conflict, we also live in a time of great hope. 

And I'm confident that many years from now, when future generations look back upon what we achieve, they'll view this moment as a time when love and understanding triumphed over all those who stood in their way. 

Thank you very much, and keep up the great work! 


Content Archived: February 9, 2018