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Hon. Jerrold L. Nadler, of New York.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of the first annual Memorial Day for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community. This special day has been established to remember the many who have lost their lives due to killings, beatings and suicides that have resulted from the homophobic attitudes prevalent in our society and throughout history.
Every year, on the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the world commemorates Yom Hashoah or the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust. Although several museum throughout the United States and Europe include exhibits recalled the homosexual experience during the Nazi era, most Yom Hashoah services fail to mention that part of Hitler's reign of terror was the systematic attempt to eliminate homosexuals from Germany. It is estimated that, under his plan, tens of thousands of homosexuals were arrested and thousands were confined to death camps along with others he deemed "undesirable". Today's solemn remembrance is part of an effort to remove the veil of silence about this tragic history of persecution and killings, underscore the seemingly endless chain of hate crimes, and provide education aimed at eradicating intolerance and violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.
I salute Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the Church of the Holy Apostles, the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors, and the many other religious and community organizations that have joined in coalition to cosponsor today's solemn commemoration of the many lives lost as a result of a national reaction to homophobia. May their lives serve as reminders of the horrors of prejudicial acts of this kind. Let us honor their memory by committing ourselves to ending bigotry toward all people regardless of who they are or who they love.
REMARKS BY C. VIRGINIA FIELDS, MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT May 6, 1999
I AM DELIGHTED TO BE A CO-SPONSOR AND PARTICIPANT IN THIS 1ST ANNUAL MEMORIAL DAY FOR THE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY.
I AM THRILLED TO BE ABLE TO WORK WITH CONGREGATION BETH SIMCHAT TORAH (CBST), THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LESBIAN AND GAY CHILDREN OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AND THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY APOSTLES AS WELL AS SO MANY DEDICATED CO-SPONSORS.
I WOULD ESPECIALLY LIKE TO THANK RICK LANDMAN, WHO HAS WORKED SO VERY HARD TO PUT THIS EVENT TOGETHER AND WHO REACHED OUT TO ME TO INVITE ME TO PARTICIPATE.
WE JOIN TOGETHER TODAY BECAUSE WE RECOGNIZE THAT VIOLENCE AGAINST THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER COMMUNITIES REMAINS A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM. WE KNOW THAT IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WE REMEMBER THE HISTORY BEHIND THESE ATTACKS AND ENSURE THAT WE NEVER ALLOW EVENTS LIKE THE HOLOCAUST TO HAPPEN AGAIN.
THE SYSTEMIC PERSECUTION AGAINST GAY MEN AND LESBIANS UNDER THE NAZI REGIME AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE RENOWNED INSTITUTE OF SEXUAL SCIENCES LED BY DR. MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD IN 1933 SET BACK THE MOVEMENT FOR SEXUAL EQUALITY DECADES. ONLY WITH THE ORGANIZING OF THE MATTACHINE SOCIETY, THE DAUGHTERS OF BILITIS AND THE SUBSEQUENT STONEWALL REBELLION, THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF WHICH WE CELEBRATE THIS YEAR, DID THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDERED COMMUNITY FIND THE CHANCE TO RE-ASSERT ITSELF AND ACHIEVE EQUALITY.
IT IS FITTING THAT THIS MEMORIAL DAY COMMEMORATES THE LOSS OF GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDERED LIVES THROUGH KILLINGS, BEATINGS AND SUICIDES THROUGHOUT HISTORY AND IMPORTANT THAT WE RECOGNIZE THAT VIOLENCE AGAINST PEOPLE AS A RESULT OF THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION, RACE, SEX, CREED, NATIONAL ORIGIN AND RELIGION CONTINUES TO PLAGUE SOCIETY TODAY.
AS WE WITNESS ACTS OF VIOLENCE SUCH AS THAT PERPETUATED AGAINST JAMES BYRD IN JASPER, TEXAS, AGAINST MATTHEW SHEPPARD IN WYOMING, AGAINST BILLY JACK GAITHER IN ALABAMA AND COUNTLESS OTHER VICTIMS. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WE ALL STAND TOGETHER TO COMBAT THIS RASH OF HATE CRIMES. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WHEN BLACK PEOPLE ARE ATTACKED, THAT GAY AND LESBIAN PEOPLE SPEAK UP, THAT WHEN GAY AND LESBIAN PEOPLE ARE ATTACKED THAT BLACK PEOPLE SPEAK OUT. WE MUST CONDEMN ALL OF THESE ACTS TOGETHER REGARDLESS OF WHAT COMMUNITY IS BEING VICTIMIZED, OR ELSE WE ALLOW SUCH VIOLENCE TO DIVIDE AND DIMINISH US.
I PLEDGE MYSELF TO CONTINUING TO WORK ON THE PASSAGE OF THE HATE CRIMES BILL IN ALBANY AND TO WORK WITH THE ANTI-VIOLENCE PROJECT AND OTHER CONCERNED ACTIVISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS, WITH ALL PEOPLE OF GOOD CONSCIENCE TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST HATRED, TO PROMOTE A SPIRIT OF UNITY AND TOLERANCE FOR ALL PEOPLE. MY MANHATTAN IS A BOROUGH IN WHICH WE ALL LEARN TO LIVE TOGETHER AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
The spiritual readings spoken during the candle lighting ceremony are as follows:
Spiritual Reading #1 by Rabbi Roderick Young (of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah)
Our thoughts turn to those who were murdered: those martyrs of our people whose graves are unmarked, and whose names are no longer known.
As we remember them, let us meditate on the meaning of love and loss, of life and death.
Reading #2 by Reverend Pat Baumgardner (of New York Metropolitan Community Church)
We promise in the words of Ruth: Even death shall not part us from them. Their names are established over our inheritance from them. The names of the dead shall not be cut off from among us.
In every generation people have murdered G-d's children because they were deemed to be different. Throughout history we have suffered in fear and silence as gays, lesbian, bisexuals and transgender people were beaten, murdered, or succumb to their own weakness. The time has come for us to change the future by remembering and memorializing these deaths with proper respect.
Reading #3 by Reverend Barry Signorelli (of the Church of the Holy Apostles)
Doesn't G-d plant in us some little bit of the divine outrage at seeing injustice and oppression, just as G-d did for the prophets of the Bible? Isn't our feeling of outrage a reflection of what G-d feels in seeing the suffering of G-d's own creatures? So let us take a moment in our collective silence to think of those who died because of their sexuality or gender and pray for the time when societies will appreciate all of G-d's children.
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