Fighting to Ensure Our Progress Is Not Undone in 2012

10/13/2011 01:12 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
  • Joe Solmonese Managing Director and Founding Partner, Gavin/Solmonese LLC

On Oct. 1, I had the privilege of welcoming President Barack Obama to keynote our 15th Annual National Dinner. It was an opportunity to recognize the milestones we've achieved in the past few years -- because together, our accomplishments have been tremendous.

We've seen the first federal hate crimes legislation covering sexual orientation and gender identity signed into law. Hospitals receiving federal funding now ensure visitation and decision-making rights for same-sex couples. The president has made a commitment to address harmful bullying that affects LGBT students in schools across the country. He's ordered his administration to stop defending the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Marriage equality has come to places like our nation's capital and New York. And we ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once and for all, so gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans can finally serve their country openly.

Despite this progress, we face real challenges as we continue down the path to equality. The current crop of GOP presidential candidates is poised to roll back many of our hard-earned victories. Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have vowed to reinstate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Rick Perry is in the pocket of anti-gay groups like the American Family Association. And just a few days ago, Herman Cain actually said he believed being gay was a choice.

The stakes in this election are high -- we can continue making progress toward DOMA repeal, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, achieving safer schools for our youth and tackling extremist incidents of homophobia. Or we can watch as anti-LGBT lawmakers sweep into office and systematically erase our progress.

The choice we now face is clear. President Obama and our allies are key to helping us achieve a future where LGBT Americans always feel safe in their communities and have the same rights as their neighbors. As we reflect on that future, we pause and pay tribute to one of our greatest visionaries and a tremendous ally -- Steve Jobs. Under Jobs' leadership, Apple often led the fight for corporate equality and donated generously to efforts aimed at fighting Prop 8 in California.

With Jobs' spirit in mind and the commitment of President Obama to remain focused on issues like tackling bullying and no longer defending DOMA, we turn to the fights ahead. For even this past weekend, many of the candidates campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination participated in the so-called "Values Voter Summit" in Washington, an event sponsored by some of the largest anti-LGBT organizations in the country. HRC's Call It Out campaign was there tracking the rhetoric of the weekend, and calling out instances of homophobia, transphobia and anti-LGBT speech.

As we move forward together, we should keep in mind the president's remarks at this year's National Dinner:

"We are going to make progress; we are going to succeed; we are going to build a more perfect union."