This Republican made an eloquent speech about protecting LGBTQ youth on the Senate floor

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) LGBTQ Nation

In the wake of the high-profile suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, you kind of expect a politician to speak out about the importance of protecting LGBTQ youth, who are at higher risk of suicide.

You just wouldn’t expect that politician to be an 84-year-old Mormon Republican from Utah who once said gay teachers had a “psychological deficiency” and boasted that Republicans should be proud of their party because “we don’t have the gays and lesbians with us.”

Yet, there was Orrin Hatch on the Senate floor Wednesday making an impassioned speech about the need to support LGBTQ youth and more generally all LGBTQ Americans.

“No one should feel less because of their orientation,” Hatch said from the Senate floor. “They deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society but that it is far better off because of them.”

“These young people need us, and we desperately need them,” Hatch continued. “We need their light to illuminate the richness of God’s creations. We need the grace, beauty and brilliance they bring to the world.”

Hatch made his remarks as Congress is considering his bill to create a national crisis hotline for anyone in need of help. But the focus of Hatch’s speech was on the greater crisis facing LGBTQ youth was striking.

“These young men and women deserve to feel young, cared for, and accepted for who they are,” Hatch said. “We all have a stake in this. We all have family or loved ones who feel marginalized because of gender identity or sexual orientation, and we need to be there for them.”

While Hatch can hardly be called a fervent supporter of LGBTQ rights–he hailed the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cake ruling–he has defintely evolved over his four decades in the Senate.

He opposed the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military personnel and early on broke with the GOP’s hard-line stance promoting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex weddings. Unlike the White House, Hatch even issued a proclamation for this year’s Pride month.

Hatch’s speech wasn’t even the first time he addressed the topic of at-risk LGBTQ youth. Last year, he met with Imagine Dragons lead vocalist Dan Reynolds to publicize the issue.

Hatch is retiring this year, and Mitt Romney stands ready to take his place. Romney has already signalled that he plans to lead Republican opposition to Trump. Whether he’s willing to match Hatch’s eloquence on our behalf remains to be seen.

Watch Hatch’s speech.

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