It’s not always easy to recognize history in the making, but many people thought they saw just that in a seminal speech delivered this week by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the United Nations in Geneva.
Speaking on International Human Rights Day (December 10), which commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the UN in 1948, Secretary Clinton delivered a 30-minute speech devoted totally to the need to acknowledge and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Acknowledging that American history is filled with struggles over human rights and that the U.S. has not yet fully succeeded in guaranteeing the rights of LGBT people, she also went over several objections to seeing “gay rights” as human rights, including religious and cultural beliefs. She noted that laws have a “teaching effect,” for both good and ill – that laws protecting human rights may precede a people’s change of heart, and laws permitting discrimination may encourage additional hatred. Significantly, she compared religion’s role in many people’s lives – as a vehicle for meaning, identity, and caring for others – to LGBT identities and loves. She also told those around the world who feel alone and afraid because they are LGBT to “know you are not alone,” that many people throughout the world are working to “end the injustices and dangers you face.” She ended with noting that “opinion will converge once again with the truth – the immutable truth – that all people are created free and equal in dignity and rights.”
If you can watch a video of the speech, please do, paying particular attention to audience shots. The respect and interest was palpable, and the speech ended with a standing ovation. One video of the speech is available at youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MudnsExyV78 (note that some other videos are only excerpts of the speech).