WASHINGTON — Former U.S. president Bill Clinton on Saturday commended LGBT rights activists for a string a victories that have brought marriage equality to a majority of states, and encouraged the LGBT community to continue its push to break down additional barriers.
“I’ve never seen a civil rights movement, at least in our country, move as far and as fast as your movement, ever” Clinton said in delivering a keynote address in Washington at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala.
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Same-sex marriage has advanced in recent weeks from 19 to 32 states after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from five states opposing decisions that gay marriage bans were unconstitutional.
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“But don’t kid yourself… there are still barriers that need to be brought down,” he said.
“All over the world there are young people who still have to cower in fear of their governments, their leaders and sometimes their families,” Clinton said.
He urged the attendees to stay focused on achieving more wins through concerted campaigns, both legally and in the court of public opinion.
Politico reports that the fired-up crowd was particularly enthusiastic whenever Bill Clinton mentioned Hillary, a likely 2016 Democratic candidate. The former president noted her support for gay rights during her time at State, when she said that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
The former Democratic president, who has publicly expressed regret that he signed the “Defense of Marriage Act” and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law while he was president, made no mention of those policies during his speech on Saturday.
Clinton’s remarks are here:
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder opened the HRC event in a surprise appearance. Earlier Saturday, Holder announced that the federal government was recognizing same-sex marriages in six more states and extending federal benefits to those couples.
Other prominent guests and speakers included actress Yeardley Smith, transgender model, advocate and founder of Gender Proud Geena Rocero, actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young.
As well, Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish received the HRC National Equality Award, and announced that the Elton John AIDS Foundation was awarding a $300,000 grant to HRC’s Foundation to increase awareness of HIV prevention, treatment and care among LGBT people.
Photos and video of additional speeches can be viewed here →