Hillary Clinton delivered a passionate speech to members of the LGBT community at a breakfast hosted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). HRC is the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization in the forefront of every fight for the rights of the LGBT community. They have at times been attacked for their lack of diversity and sometimes seem to have had a hard time moving on from the days when they were known as HRCF, nicknamed the Human Rights Champagne Fund. But the reality is running a major organization like HRC takes a lot of money and rich people with money in our society are still too often mostly white and male.
The organization has been making needed strides to become more diverse and we as a community need HRC to be strong and successful. Marriage-equality is now a reality and HRC is leading the fight for a comprehensive civil rights bill. They have undertaken a southern strategy and a global strategy to help members of the LGBT community here and around the world.
Chad Griffin, President of HRC, introduced Hillary reminding everyone he has known her from their days in Arkansas. He shared some slides of him as a teenager with Hillary and quipped Hillary was the "first HRC he worked for." Hillary began her speech saying "Hello, Human Rights Campaign! It's great to be back with the HRC. There's no one I'd rather share my initials with than you."
From there the speech turned serious as she passionately described her commitment to the human rights of all people and reiterated the statement she made as Secretary of State in Geneva on Human Rights Day in 2011 declaring to the world "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." She spoke of where we are as a community and pledged to work with us to protect the rights the LGBT community has already won and fight with us until we secure all our rights.
As we in our own community strive to be more inclusive, it was encouraging to hear Clinton speak of the need for inclusiveness in government, the military and society as a whole. Anyone who has followed her career from her days at the Children's Defense Fund knows she has spent her life fighting for civil and human rights for people around the world including African Americans, women, and LGBT people. She received one of her loudest ovations when she said, "I've been fighting alongside you and others for equal rights -- and I'm just getting warmed up."
Clinton struck a chord when she said "Don't ask, don't tell is over -- but 14,000 men and women were forced out of the military for being gay, some long before 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' even existed. Many were given less than honorable discharges. I can't think of a better way to thank those men and women for their service than by upgrading their service records, and making sure they get the honorable discharge they deserve." She spoke of transgender people and said banning them from serving "is an outdated rule -- especially since you and I know that there are transgender people in uniform right now." Adding " Now we pride ourselves on having the world's best military - but being the best doesn't just mean having the best-trained forces or biggest arsenal. It also means being a leader on issues like this -- on who we respect enough to let serve with dignity as themselves."
Clinton spoke from the heart when she said "I'm really here to say thank you for your hard work and your courage. And for insisting that what's right is right. You've helped change a lot of minds, including mine. And I am personally very grateful for that." She went on to say "There are still public officials doing everything in their power to interfere with your rights. There are still too many places where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans are targeted for harassment and violence. There are still too many young people out there feeling hopeless and alone. Now we assure them that "it gets better" -- but it can still be really hard to believe that. Especially when you turn on the TV and you see a Republican candidate for President literally standing in the courthouse door in Kentucky, calling for people to join him in resisting a Supreme Court ruling, celebrating a county clerk who's breaking the law by denying other Americans their constitutional rights." Clinton added "I see the injustices and the dangers that you and your families still face. And I'm running for President to end them once and for all."
She spoke of fighting for national healthcare and ensuring affordable drugs for HIV/AIDS patients. She said "The stakes in this election are high for the country. We have got to stay focused, stay united. You deserve a President who will bring people together -- who won't leave anyone behind. I'm fighting for an America where, if you do your part, you do reap the rewards. Where we don't leave anyone out. Where you can pursue your dreams however you define them. That's what I'm fighting for. And I'm proud to be fighting right alongside you."
This was the most heartfelt and passionate speech many ever heard Clinton make on LGBT rights. It was received with thunderous applause and appreciation.