January 22, 2021 at 4:21 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Biden, Pelosi, Schumer speak at HRC virtual inaugural event
HRC inaugural celebration gala, gay news, Washington Blade
President Joe Biden was among high-profile Democratic speakers at HRC’s virtual event. (Screen capture via YouTube)

Sixteen members of Congress, including eight of the 11 openly LGBTQ members, joined President Joe Biden in delivering remarks before the Human Rights Campaign’s virtual LGBTQ Inaugural celebration held on Jan. 20 hours after Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol.

Among the members of Congress who spoke were Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Both praised HRC and LGBTQ community advocates for playing an active role in helping to elect Biden and Harris as president and vice president.

“Thank you for helping to elect what will be the most pro-equality administration in our nation’s history,” Schumer said in a recorded video. “Thank you to the LGBTQ community for turning out in record numbers to secure a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate,” he said.

“Because of you and because I am now Majority Leader, we can take action on the Equality Act in the Senate, which [former Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell had bottled up,” Schumer said. “And we will work as hard as we can to finally pass this into law. You made it possible.”

Biden didn’t specifically mention HRC or the LGBTQ community in his recorded video, indicating the Biden inaugural committee or the White House may have sent the video to a number of inaugural events organized by groups that supported the Biden-Harris ticket and congressional Democrats in the November election.

“I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you’ve done to make this moment possible,” Biden said in his video message. “You believed that we can win this and you believed it was a battle for the soul of this country and we could win that battle,” he said.

“And then you showed up and you proved it,” Biden said. “Thanks to all of you. A record number of Americans showed up to make their voices heard.”

Although Biden did not mention LGBTQ issues in his recorded remarks at the HRC event, a few hours before the event in the Oval Office, Biden signed a sweeping executive order requiring all federal agencies to strictly comply with a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Supreme Court ruling interpreted the landmark civil rights act to mean that its ban on discrimination based on sex must be extended to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, expanding it to cover LGBTQ people.

HRC President Alphonso David and others who spoke at the HRC inaugural event praised Biden for issuing a strongly worded LGBTQ supportive executive order on his first day in office as president.

“It’s my privilege to join the great Alphonso David and the advocates of the Human Rights Campaign to celebrate the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris,” Pelosi told the HRC gathering in a video recording. “Together, we will build on our success, including by once more passing the Equality Act so that it can finally become the law,” she said. “We must fully end LGBTQ discrimination once and for all.”

Among the others who spoke through video recordings at the HRC event was Pete Buttigieg, the former Democratic presidential candidate who Biden has nominated to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

“After everything that our country and the LGBTQ community has endured over these past four years, I know that this is a day of long needed change hard fought for,” Buttigieg said. “And it’s a new window of optimism for the possibilities in the future,” he said. “As we saw the remarkable team of President Biden and Vice President Harris take that oath of office – these are two leaders of integrity and decency at a time when we need those qualities of leadership as never before.”

Buttigieg said he was honored to be Biden’s selection as secretary at the Department of Transportation. “If confirmed, I will work every day to create millions of good paying union jobs, to meet the climate challenge with urgency, and the ambition to enhance equity for people of all backgrounds to ensure the safety of travelers and workers across America,” he said.

Among the LGBTQ members of Congress who spoke at the HRC event were U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and U.S. Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.).

Other longtime LGBTQ supportive members of Congress who presented video remarks at the event included U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) Lucy McBath (D-Calif.), and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).

Ten actors, artists, musicians and celebrities also appeared at the HRC inaugural event, with most of them performing through video presentations. Among them were Billy Porter, Melissa Etheridge, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Shea Diamond.

The HRC inaugural event can be viewed in its entirety through either of these links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wunademG6Xg

https://www.facebook.com/humanrightscampaign/videos/165526705018167

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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