Press Release ● Human and Civil Rights
For Immediate Release: 
March 28, 2019
Contact Info: 
Annaliese Davis 202-225-4131
WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) joined Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), House Democrats, and transgender service members for a press conference today after the House passed Rep. Kennedy’s resolution rejecting the Trump Administration’s discriminatory ban on transgender service members and urging the Department of Defense to not reinstate the discriminatory policy. Below are his remarks as delivered:

"Thank you [Representative] Joe Kennedy. Things come to the Floor because somebody has the courage to sponsor, to push, and to move forward. I have the responsibility to put bills on the Floor… But it was Joe who was sponsor and chief proponent of this bill.

“Joe’s very effective: not a single Member of his party voted no on Joe Kennedy’s bill, not a single Member. And it was a bipartisan bill, as Representative Kennedy has told you. Republicans voted for this bill, as well.

“America has been on a long journey from the statement in the Declaration of Independence that all men – and clearly we would have said either people or men and women – are created equal. That was a radical, central premise of the idea of America. And, of course, at the time that the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was not being lived out by its signers, and as the decades and centuries have passed, we have aspired to be a better, more perfect union, treating with equality those that we said at the founding of our country ought to be considered equal.

“This is another important step in doing what [Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.] called us to do: judge one another on the content of our character, and [as Captain Jennifer Peace] said, on our performance. You related the same thing, you’re in the Marine Corps.

“That’s what this bill was about: a more perfect union and utilizing the talents of all who want to contribute and not make some arbitrary exclusion. I’m old enough to remember [President Harry] Truman’s action in 1948 that said it was not the color of skin that counted it was the content of character. That was not his words, but that’s what he meant. And so African Americans ought to be able to participate in every way [in the military].

“I was the Majority Leader that brought ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ to the Floor to repeal that discriminatory legislation. And I am so proud that I have the opportunity and the honor of bringing Representative Kennedy’s bill to the Floor to move one step further, to keep our eye on the prize, as [Representative] John Lewis says, of a more perfect union, a more beloved community honoring all those who want to serve, who want to perform, and whose services we need as a country.

“Excluding African Americans, excluding women, excluding LGBT members was wrong from a moral perspective but it was also wrong from a practical perspective that we excluded so much talent, so much dedication from service to our country and to our citizens.

“I want to thank all of you for being here. It’s hard because we know there’s bigotry, prejudice, and, yes, even hate directed at those who are different. But it is God who looks on the inside on the character, on the soul, on the courage, on the willingness to serve.

“I am so proud of the House of Representatives for passing this legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the United States Senate: take this bill up. Pass it. America will be a better place.

“And now I want to introduce… [Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality] Mara Keisling, who is a good friend of mine… This day is a good day. Thank you for your leadership.”