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USDA Proudly Supports the LGBT Community in Oregon and Nationwide

I recently had the privilege of representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival in southwestern Oregon. We stood side-by-side with our counterparts at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service. When this festival began 25 years ago, the idea of a government agency participating was unthinkable. At that time, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals had no assurance of equal treatment when requesting government services or financial assistance. In fact, it was not so long ago that federal employees suspected of being gay were fired from their jobs. This sad chapter in our history saw careers destroyed and lives irreparably damaged.

I am deeply proud of the tremendous progress we have made nationally and at home here in Oregon to correct those past mistakes. USDA has been among the first federal departments to participate in Pride festivals across Oregon, and we have been leading the way nationally in the arena of LGBT civil rights. We were one of the first federal departments to enact protections specifically on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. USDA has instituted training for our employees, and we have been making a concerted effort to reach out to our LGBT customers, partners, and potential future employees. As I handed out information on the financial programs in Rural Development and the career opportunities available with USDA in a park festooned with rainbows, I experienced first-hand the incredible strides we have made in recent years toward a new era of civil rights.

June is Pride Month, National Homeownership Month: USDA Brings Homeownership Assistance to Rural LGBT Communities

June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community -- including our coworkers, partners and clients -- to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.

June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.”  With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future.

Chef Art Kicks off Pride Month

Renowned chef Art Smith was the official guest speaker for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s observance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Openly Gay, and formally the personal chef to Oprah Winfrey, Chef Art has made numerous TV appearances, and is one of the most popular chefs in the country.

The USDA and its agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, was one of the first cabinet-level departments to recognize its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees through the establishment of an LGBT Special Emphasis Program.