Change can be a real bitch. It doesn’t comes right when you want it to. It always takes forever. Sometimes it seems it’ll never happen. But, still, we never have to stop trying, stop fighting, stop working to make it happen. So each step toward change, however small, is something to celebrate. Something to embrace. Something to hold up as a reminder that, yes, change is coming. It always comes. It is the only inevitability in life besides death. And that, in itself, is a change. So this week, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped before the United Nations in Geneva and gave a speech declaring gay rights human rights. This isn’t a baby step. This isn’t even a regular step. This is history.
God, I love this speech. Hillary spoke for 30 solid minutes about gay rights. It is, quite simply, extraordinary. A few excerpts (but really, watch the full 30 minutes – you will not be sorry).
On human rights:
“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same…. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
On religious objections:
“This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn't cultural; it's criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights. In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”
On freedom of expression:
“Universal human rights include freedom of expression and freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity of others. Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.”
On creating change:
“We need to ask ourselves, ‘How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?’ This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.”
Chills, really, chills. Clear, direct, eloquent, forceful. It’s everything we want our leaders to stand up and say to the world. And, like Hillary herself admits on the speech, our “own country's record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect” and we “have more work to do to protect human rights at home.” No, the Obama Administration’s record on LGBT rights isn’t perfect. No, neither Obama or Hillary fully support gay marriage – yet. But still, this speech is a landmark worldwide. A message to the corners of the world where being gay is still a crime. A clarion call for equality across the globe.
You can read her full transcript here.
Her speech could not be more of a contrast to the new political ad put out by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry also put out this week. In it, the want-to-be President of the United States says:
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”
When people scoff about voting and say, “Oh, who cares, politicians are all alike,” show them these two videos. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to find perfection in our leaders. But then consider the alternative.
p.s. As distasteful as it is to watch, I urge you to take a look and then click the “DISLIKE” button to help make Perry’s hideous spot the most disliked video on YouTube.
p.p.s. But it’ll make your day infinitely better knowing that that Perry wore Heath Ledger’s iconic “Brokeback Mountain” jacket in his big, dumb anti-gay ad.
Hillary ended her spectacular speech with a call for change, that ever elusive yet always present creature. And it urged everyone to get on the right side of history. It’s what makes me know that no matter how hard the Rick Perrys and worse of the world try, they’ll never be able to truly stop change from coming. Delay it, sure. Aggravate it, definitely. But history has proven to have very little patience with those who deny its progress. As Hillary said, “no matter how long the road ahead, we will travel it successfully together.” Happy weekend, all.