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Remarks at the Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire Concert:
“From the Sublime to the Ridiculous (and Everything in Between)”
November 29, 2014

It is an honor to be here with you all tonight. Curtis and I are really enjoying the concert.

Music is one of the things that builds bridges between peoples, between cultures and countries. It’s one of those things that is universally understood, no matter where you were raised.

I was reading an article the other day in which the authors wrote that we don’t know of any culture that doesn’t have music. Music is what makes us human. I think that’s wonderful. No matter where we are – from the icy Arctic to the humid Equator, from farthest East and West, we express our joys and sorrows and our sacred traditions with instrument and voice. As the world becomes more connected, we share our music around the world.

Singing together, learning about another country’s cultural traditions, and feeling moved by the gift of someone else’s music makes it easier to find friendship, to lose fear and hate, and to build bridges of understanding.

And this is what the Qwire has been doing so well for twenty years now. Those bridges are important for LGBT communities around the world.

In the United States, we are making substantial progress toward equality, but we recognize that we still have work to do.

LGBT rights are human rights.

And so the United States, along with Australia, is working hard to improve conditions for LGBT people around the world. We are working with business communities to demonstrate that official discrimination is more than just bad policy – it’s bad for business. One of the criteria we consider in evaluating countries for Millennium Challenge Corporation assistance is how well they treat their LGBT populations.

World AIDS Day is Monday. Through PEPFAR, we are reducing new HIV infections. We are providing life-saving care and treatment to those who are living with HIV and AIDS.

Australia has been a key partner in these efforts.

Australians and Americans are making huge strides in researching treatments and hopefully – one day – a cure. We are working together through the Global Fund to reach the end goal of an AIDS-free generation.

In April, we all applauded all five of Australia’s major professional sports organizations took a collective stand against homophobia and pledged to actively embrace diversity.  I wrote to each to personally thank them for taking this tremendous step.

But none of us can rest until the day when each of us is judged not on our race, religion, or sexual identity – but on our ability to do the job.

One of the major principles of the U.S. Declaration of Independence – arguably the one we hold most dear – is the idea that all of us are created equal. In his second inaugural address, President Obama said that “[o]ur journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

I firmly believe that one day very soon, equality will be the order of the day no matter where you live, and no matter who you love.

In closing, sometimes hope sounds like one lonely, lovely voice raised in song. One voice battling the ugliness of discrimination. Over time, that solo becomes a duet, and then a trio, and eventually a great choir.

Here, tonight, we all can say that we know just what that Qwire sounds like.

May God bless you and your every effort. And may you all find joy and peace in this holiday season.