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Choking Back Tears, This GOP Lt. Gov. Just Apologized For Being Mean To Gays, Called For Love & Unity

We’re all still reeling from the horrific massacre in Orlando this weekend. Some people are using this tragedy to push for a change in policy, while others just want to entrench themselves in the tired old traditions of the past. There are stories that lift our spirits and stories that beat us down. This is going to be the former.

A Call for love and Unity from an unlikely source

When you think of Utah, if you’re anything like me, you think of stunning landscapes and The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. This red state is home to Mitt Romney and while they are a very socially conservative state, the Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox’s address during a vigil to honor the slain would impress even the most jaded of the Social-Justice-Warriors:

“I begin with an admission and an apology. First, I recognize fully that I am a balding, youngish, middle-aged straight, white, male, Republican, politician… with all of the expectations and privileges that come with those labels. I am probably not who you expected to hear from today.” 

He’s off to a good start.

“…I’m here because those 49 people [who were brutally murdered] were gay. I’m here because it shouldn’t matter. But I’m here because it does. I am not here to tell you that I know exactly what you are going through. I am not here to tell you that I feel your pain. I don’t pretend to know the depths of what you are feeling right now. But I do know what it feels like to be scared. And I do know what it feels like to be sad. And I do know what it feels like to be rejected. And, more importantly, I know what it feels like to be loved.”

That would have been enough for some, but he want on:

“I grew up in a small town and went to a small rural high school. There were some kids in my class that were different. Sometimes I wasn’t kind to them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now that they were gay. I will forever regret not treating them with the kindness, dignity and respect — the love — that they deserved. For that, I sincerely and humbly apologize.

Over the intervening years, my heart has changed. It has changed because of you. It has changed because I have gotten to know many of you. You have been patient with me. You helped me learn the right letters of the alphabet in the right order even though you keep adding new ones. You have been kind to me… You have treated me with the kindness, dignity, and respect — the love — that I very often did NOT deserve. And it has made me love you.”

Talk about personal growth! But Lt. Gov Cox still isn’t done:

“I believe that there is a question, two questions actually, that each of us needs to ask ourselves in our heart of hearts. And I am speaking now to the straight community. How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist? That’s the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 a.m. in the morning? If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong.”

The Lt. Gov. goes on to express his disappointment in those who are trying to politicize this:

“Usually when tragedy occurs, we see our nation come together. I was saddened, yesterday to see far too many retreating to their over-worn policy corners and demagoguery… And I can assure you this — that calling people idiots, communists, fascists or bigots on Facebook is not going to change any hearts or minds. Today we need fewer Republicans and fewer Democrats. Today we need more Americans.”

His message of love turns into a call for action:

“…just because an easy solution doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The greatest generations in the history of the world were never innately great. They became great because of how they responded in the face of evil. Their humanity is measured by their response to hate and terror.

I truly believe that this is the defining issue of our generation. Can we be brave? Can we be strong? Can we be kind and, perhaps, even happy, in the face of atrocious acts of hate and terrorism? Do we find a way to unite? Or do these atrocities further corrode and divide our torn nation? Can we, the citizens of the great state of Utah, lead the nation with love in the face of adversity? Can WE become a greatest generation?”

Can we?

“I promise we can. But I also promise it will never happen if we leave it to the politicians. Ultimately, there is only one way for us to come together. It must happen at a personal level. We must learn to truly love one another.

The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: ‘You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another.’

Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.’”

I suppose you can’t really argue with Jesus.

“…What our country needs more than ever is less politics and more kindness. If nothing else, as we can see here tonight, this tragedy has the potential to bring us closer than ever before.

And so may we leave today, with a resolve to be a little kinder. May we try to listen more and talk less. May we forgive someone that has wronged us. And perhaps, most importantly, try to love someone that is different than us. For my straight friends, might I suggest starting with someone who is gay.”

Cox closed out his speech with a quote from LBJ after the death of JFK:

“’Our enemies have always made the same mistake. In my lifetime — in depression and in war — they have awaited our defeat. Each time, from the secret places of the American heart, came forth the faith they could not see or that they could not even imagine. It brought us victory. And it will again. For this is what America is all about.’

On behalf of the 3 million people of the state of Utah, We Are Orlando. We love you. And I love you.”

Excuse me…I think there’s something in my eye.

You can watch Cox’s speech here:

Featured image screen-grab from YouTube

Cecilia B is an educator and professional bookworm from the suburbs of Houston, Texas with a keen eye for politics, cats and young adult literature.
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