On July 14, the U.S. Embassy building in Bratislava will light up in the colors of the rainbow and a rainbow flag will hang prominently from the Embassy’s balcony. These are symbols of the United States’ firm commitment to the human rights of LGBTI people everywhere. The same day, I will join people from across Slovakia who gather at Rainbow PRIDE Bratislava 2018 to march for the rights and acceptance of sexual minorities and transgender people and to celebrate LGBTI pride.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and we support members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) community and all those around the world who work to advance the principle that LGBTI rights are human rights. All people, regardless of who they love or their gender identity, should have the same dignity and should be able to enjoy the same fundamental human rights. I applaud the fearlessness and dedication of the many Slovak NGOs and brave individuals working in this area. As U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said, “LGBTI persons – like all persons – must be free to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Pride events build a strong sense of community. They allow LGBTI people and their allies to create meaningful change. Pride month is a time for all human rights defenders to raise awareness about the value of diversity and the contributions LGBTI people make to society. The things that make us different also make us stronger. We should embrace these differences.
Pride Month is also a time to reflect on the hardships that LGBTI people continue to face and on the obstacles that prevent them from exercising their full potential for the benefit of society. In too many places, LGBTI people grow up feeling they must conceal or deny who they truly are for fear of persecution, discrimination, and violence. We can, and must, do better to prevent this. We must also demonstrate our full support to those who have faced reprisal for publically standing up to defend LGBTI rights and dignity. A free society depends on free speech.
The first Pride march took place in New York in 1970. Pride celebrations are now held every year around the world. Since the emergence of the Pride movement, many LGBTI people in the United States and beyond have seen a steady confirmation of their legal rights and growing acceptance in society, though stigmatization, prejudice and discrimination still exist. There is still a lot of work ahead of us in the United States, in Slovakia, and around the world to fight for equal rights for everyone no matter who they are or who they love.
I hope to see a large turnout at Rainbow PRIDE Bratislava 2018 and look forward to a peaceful and joyous event. I invite you to come celebrate with us. I also hope to see continued improvement in the area of LGBTI rights in the coming years so that one day we will live in a world where no one will have to experience fear, violence or discrimination.