Friday morning, I gave the keynote speech during the annual LGBTQ Pride Month commemorative naturalization ceremony at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Kendall.
At the ceremony, 143 people from 26 countries became new U.S. citizens, including 78 from Cuba and 14 from Colombia. Many stood teary-eyed as they took their citizenship oaths and pledged allegiance to the United States.
Afterward, several of the new citizens introduced themselves, told me their own stories and even asked to pose for a few cellphone photos.
Steve Rothaus’ keynote speech
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Good morning, welcome and congratulations.
Exactly three years ago, in this very room, I made a little bit of history in the United States: I became the first openly gay speaker to officially welcome new citizens at a naturalization ceremony anywhere in America.
The next year, these nice people invited me back. And again, history was made at the exact moment I took the podium. That morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples throughout the United States had the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples.
Our highest court also declared that all marriages of same-sex couples must be fully recognized by the U.S. federal government and in all 50 of the United States.
Because of that ruling, legally married male citizens can now sponsor their husbands for green cards, and legally married women can sponsor their wives, too. Just like opposite-sex married couples.
Those two mornings here were my first times attending a U.S. naturalization ceremony.
And I’ll never forget the faces of both our newest American citizens and the people working here at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, all filled with pride.
That is what I want to talk about today. Pride. June in the United States — as in many of your own birthplaces — is LGBTQ Pride Month.
I have been a journalist at the Miami Herald since 1985. Twenty years ago, I began covering the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities here in South Florida. I am considered a pioneer in LGBTQ journalism.
My job is to tell stories about people who in the past no one talked about. I’ve written about adoption and gay parenting, transgender rights, job discrimination, lesbian health issues, LGBTQ sporting events, drag queens, you name it.
Last year, a prominent lesbian attorney in Miami told the Columbia Journalism Review, one of our best-trusted professional magazines: “Not only does he tell our stories, he gives us access to the broader world and gives the broader world access to us.”
Please know that my job is not to tell just one side of a story. I often interview people who disagree with LGBTQ rights and give them a voice, too.
We all want to be heard, every one of us. We don’t always agree, but in our nation we each have the right to be and express ourselves.
And with that comes the responsibility of being respectful of people we don’t agree with.
Our nation is built on the concept that all people are equal and have equal rights. That’s why you are here today, participating in this great ceremony.
So welcome to the United States and congratulations on becoming our newest citizens.
America’s newest citizens
On Friday, 143 people from 26 countries became U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Kendall. Here’s where they are from:
▪ Argentina (1)
▪ Bangladesh (1)
▪ Belgium (1)
▪ Brazil (3)
▪ China, People’s Republic of (1)
▪ Chile (2)
▪ Czech Republic (1)
▪ Dominican Republic (5)
▪ Ecuador (1)
▪ El Salvador (1)
▪ Guatemala (1)
▪ Haiti (5)
▪ Honduras (1)
▪ Jamaica (2)
▪ Lebanon (1)
▪ Mexico (1)
▪ Morocco (1)
▪ Nicaragua (8)
▪ Peru (3)
▪ Philippines (1)
▪ Spain (1)
▪ Trinidad & Tobago (1)
▪ United Kingdom (2)
▪ Venezuela (6)
▪ Colombia (14)
▪ Cuba (78)