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HHS LGBT event

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HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Washington, D.C.
June 12, 2014

Thank you, Matt [Heinz].  The video just reminded me of the joy of this year, and that usually at my age, when you get wedding invitations, they’re often for a second marriage.  But this year has been a year of other kinds of wedding invitations in terms of the joy that we saw in the video.  As a matter of fact, my husband and I went to the wedding of the priest who married us as he married his partner.  So, it is a change.

First, I want to say how excited I am to be here, and to be at the Department.  This is my first speaking opportunity with all of you.  I had the chance to meet a number of you as you were coming to work, and that has been a great way to start understanding the work that we do, and the people we have here.

I’ve enjoyed meeting all of you, as well as your colleagues, and learning a lot about the work that is going on in the Department this week.  That’s what I’ve spent most of my week doing, and I look forward to working with each of you to build on the great efforts that you have done, and Secretary Sebelius has done, and all the work that has been happening to do what we do here at this Department.

And what we do is we ensure that all Americans have the building blocks to have healthy and productive lives.  That’s what everyone does here every day, and I look forward to being a part of that.

Today we’re actually spending time on some important building blocks that are essential, too.  And that’s equal rights and equal opportunity, and those are essential to healthy and productive lives as well.

Many of you in the Department are involved in all the work that we do in this space, and you worked hard to advance the issues of the LGBT community here within our department, but also for citizens across the nation.

In terms of some of the things that have been done, some of you have been involved in our recent efforts to add gender identity protections to HHS’s equal employment policy.  Others have been a part of the important work to protect the rights of same-sex partners to visit their loved ones in hospitals, or do things like make medical decisions when that’s appropriate.  And all of you need to be a part of our effort, going forward this year from now until November, to make sure that LGBT Americans understand their rights as they relate to the Affordable Care Act as we lead up to our next Open Enrollment. That’s something we can all join in.

As we work together to advance these priorities, I want to let you know, I’m especially excited to work with the community, to work with our ACL Administrator Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary of Health Howard Koh, as well as Deputy General Counsel Ken Choe, and the other members of the HHS LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee so that we can continue to move these issues forward for our own Department.

As we move all these things forward both in our Department and for the nation, we’ll also be working with our elected officials. We are very fortunate today to have as our special guest one of those elected officials on Capitol Hill.  Senator Tammy Baldwin has said that she didn’t run for the Senate to make history.  She ran to make a difference.  The good news is she’s quite adept at doing both.

Senator Baldwin was elected to the Senate in November of 2012.  In 1986, as a young law student, at just 24, she was elected by her fellow citizens to the Dane County Board of Supervisors, where she served for four terms.  She went on to serve in the Wisconsin State Assembly, as well as the United States Congress.  She was the first woman to be elected to the Congress from Wisconsin.  She is also the first openly gay member elected to the United States Senate.

As a House member, Tammy helped craft the Affordable Care Act, and she was particularly instrumental in the provision that allows millions of young people to stay on their parents’ plan until they’re age 26.

From our meetings and time together, I can speak firsthand that Senator Baldwin is a champion for the middle class, for families, as well as for the LGBT community.  Let’s give a warm HHS welcome to U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.