(remarks delivered by PAO Mark Pannell)
Friends and colleagues,
Bem-vindos à Embaixada dos Estados Unidos da América. Unfortunately, the Ambassador’s return flight was canceled and is unable to be here today. He passes his sincere regrets for not being here to participate personally at such an important event and wishes us all the best on this important day. We wanted to keep today’s ceremony as it is important to all of us to honor all those who lost their lives in Orlando, and all those who continue to advocate for LGBTI rights and human rights.
When we planned today’s events, we were looking forward to a joyous event. Last year this event coincided with the Obergefell decision by the U.S. Supreme court which granted the right to marry the person of their choice to all Americans regardless of sexual orientation. That was a great day as we watched the Pride Flag take its place along with the Stars and Stripes at the top of the flagpole. This year, again events three thousand miles away have changed this day for us here. By now, we all have seen the unimaginable horror, the unspeakable devastation that took place early Sunday morning at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That club, Pulse, served the LGBTI community as a place to come together and live openly and authentically. They were there for a Pride month night of fun and celebration to listen to Latin music and dance. They were exercising the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans to gather peacefully and to pursue happiness. Now, 49 innocent victims have lost their lives and another 50-plus were wounded, some seriously. To honor those lives lost and those suffering in the wake of this attack, I ask you all to please join me in a moment of silence.
[pause for moment of silence]
Thank you very much.
The Orlando terror attack is a sobering and cruel reminder that while the Marriage Act of a year ago was an enormous step forward, there is still much work to be done to eliminate bigotry and intolerance from our society and indeed from all societies. The fundamental values of equality and dignity that define both of our countries are not entirely safe and that we are called to defend those values with our action and our rhetoric. That is why we stand today with all of you to raise these flags together. Although they will fly only at half-staff to mark the loss of life, they also declare loudly that the U.S. condemns acts of intolerance and supports the rights of LGBTI people and communities around the world as they fight not just for equal rights but for their own safety as they live their lives. And that is why, as we had planned to do before the Orlando tragedy, I’d like to announce that the Ambassador will march in solidarity in the Lisbon Pride Parade this Saturday. We would also like to invite you back to the Embassy to raise the flags to full staff, in the presence of the Ambassador. We have still to confirm the details, but perhaps this coming Friday.
Even in times of tragedy, we can draw inspiration from the many heroic and selfless acts – people who helped friends and strangers alike, who took care of each other and saved lives. We are also inspired by the outpouring of love and support that has arrived to Orlando from communities all throughout the globe. That act of taking care of one another and creating an atmosphere of acceptance and love is why I am so pleased to welcome you here as we commemorate Pride Month, a celebration of the contributions made by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex persons worldwide. We have an important and, because of this weekend’s events, an even more poignant program in store, which includes a heartfelt and inspirational film documentary – “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” – as well as an interactive chat featuring some of the brightest champions of LGBTI rights in the United States.
Let us also reaffirm today that LGBTI rights are human rights and that human rights are LGBTI rights, and we all benefit when those rights are ensured and exercised. And let us continue to honor the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling making clear that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples under the United States Constitution, the highest law in our land. Let us remember that our Supreme Court’s decision provided hope. It provided dignity. And it united us. And while the act of terror of last weekend shakes us with a message written in the blood of the victims that LBGTI people face discrimination, violence and even death because of nothing more than who they are, in the end our resolve is only strengthened. As Martin Luther King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but is bends towards justice.”
To all assembled here today, thank you very much. Muito obrigado. God Bless America. And God Bless Portugal.
[Walk over to flag pole for flag raising ceremony].