This Republican Delivers a Powerful Speech About His Past Homophobia

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox paid tribute to the victims of the Orlando mass shooting at a vigil on Monday, apologizing for his past homophobia and describing how he evolved into an advocate for LGBT rights.

The speech, delivered between tears the day after a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, touched on the importance of community, education, and respect for marginalized groups in America. If you have ten minutes, I'd recommend watching the full speech here.

"I recognize fully that I am a balding, young-ish, middle-aged straight, white, male, Republican politician with all of the expectations and privileges that come with those labels," Cox said. "I am probably not who you expected to hear from today."

Cox admitted that he grew up harboring homophobic feelings toward classmates and treating them unkindly; he apologized and said he'd "forever regret not treating them with the kindness, dignity, and respect — the love — that they deserved." It was only as he got to know people with different sexual orientations that his "heart changed," he said.

There were plenty of powerful moments throughout the speech, but one of the more poignant moments came when Cox posed two questions 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."

Cox stressed that there are "no simple policy answers to this tragedy" and said politicians alone could not solve systemic problems of discrimination and hatred in America, Vox reports. But this, Cox said, is the "defining issue of our generation."

He continued:

"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?"

"I promise we can," Cox said. "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."

Watch the full speech below.

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