Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III responded to President Donald Trump’s divisive State of the Union speech Tuesday night, delivering a powerful reminder to Americans that despite the difficult political climate, there is still plenty of reason to hope.
“Many have spent the last year anxious, angry, afraid. We all feel the fractured fault lines across our country,” Kennedy said, speaking in the town of Fall River, Massachsetts. “We hear the voices of Americans who are forgotten and feel forsaken.”
Kennedy used the stock market, one of Trump’s favorite talking points, against him—noting that those profits aren’t trickling down to the workers. He also addressed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the attacks on the environment by this administration, and our out-of-control gun culture.
LGBT rights groups were also quick to condemn Trump’s presidency and his address.
“Managing to read a pre-written speech off a teleprompter does not make one Presidential or lend a single ounce of legitimacy to Trump’s anti-LGBTQ agenda,” said GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis. “Trump has spent the past year targeting vulnerable communities and surrounding himself with anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women, and anti-LGBTQ activists with the goal of exacerbating discrimination and erasing LGBTQ Americans from the fabric of this nation,”
In his rebuttal, Kennedy took aim at the Justice Department for “rolling back civil rights by the day,” and allowing the rise of “hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets.”
“This nagging, sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, that this is not right—this is not who we are,” he continued. “This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection. For them, dignity isn’t something you are born with, but something you measure by your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size. Not to mention, the gender of your spouse, the country of your birth, the color of your skin, the God of your prayers.”
Kennedy claimed Trump’s actions were “a rebuke to our highest American ideal” and worried they were pitting Americans against each other.
“As if the mechanic in Pittsburgh, a teacher in Tulsa, and a day care worker in Birmingham are bitter rivals… As if, the parent who lies awake terrified that their transgender son or daughter will be beaten and bullied at school is any more or less legitimate than a parent whose heart is shattered by a daughter in the grips of an opioid addiction. So here is an answer that Democrats offer tonight. We choose both.”
Kennedy’s show of support for the LGBT community wasn’t limited to his speech: He brought transgender service member Staff Sgt. Patricia King as his guest at the State of the Union, stating she “represents the best and bravest our nation has to offer.”
Below, HRC press secretary Sarah McBride discusses the state of the LGBT community and her commitment to fighting for equality.