A little over a year ago in Geneva, I told the nations of the world that gay rights are
human rights and human rights are gay rights, and that the United States would be a leader in defending those rights. Now there were some countries that did not want to hear that.
But I believe America is at its best when we champion the freedom and dignity of every human being. That’s who we are. It’s in our DNA. And as Secretary of State, I had the privilege to represent that America.
I will never forget the young Tunisian who asked me after the revolution in his country how America could teach his new democracy to protect the rights of its LGBT citizens.
He saw America as an example for the world, and as a beacon of hope.
That’s what was in my mind as I engaged in some tough conversations with foreign leaders who did not accept that human rights apply to everyone, gay and straight. When I directed our diplomats around the world to combat repressive laws and reach out to the brave activists fighting on the frontlines. And when I changed State Department policy to ensure that our LGBT families are treated more fairly.
Traveling the world these past four years reaffirmed and deepened my pride in our country and the ideals we stand for. It also inspired and challenged me to think anew about who we are and the values we represent to the world. Now, having left public office, I want to share some of what I’ve learned, and what I’ve come to believe.
For America to continue leading in the world, there is work we must do here at home. That means investing in our people, our economy, our national security. It also means working every day, as citizens, as communities, as a country, to live up to our highest ideals and continue our long march to a more perfect union.
LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And they are full and equal citizens and they deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. That’s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law, embedded in a broader effort to advance equality and opportunity for LGBT Americans and all Americans.
Like so many others, my personal views have been shaped over time by people I have known and loved. By my experience representing our nation on the world stage, my devotion to law and human rights, and the guiding principles of my faith.
Marriage after all is a fundamental building block of our society, a great joy and yes, a great responsibility. A few years ago, Bill and I celebrated as our own daughter married the love of her life, and I wish every parent the same joy. To deny that opportunity to any of our daughters and sons solely on the basis of who they are and who they love is to deny them the chance to live up to their own God-given potential.
Throughout our history, as our nation has become even more dedicated to the protection of liberty and justice for all, more open to the contributions of all our citizens, it has also become stronger, more competitive, more ready for the future. It benefits every American when we continue on that path.
I know that many in our country are still struggle to reconcile the teachings of their religion, the pull of their conscience, and the personal experiences they have in their families and communities. And people of good will and good faith will continue to view this issue differently. So I hope that as we discuss and debate, whether it’s around a kitchen table or in the public square, we do so in a spirit of respect and understanding.
Conversations with our friends, our families, our congregations, our coworkers, are opportunities to share our own reflections and to invite others to share theirs. They give us a chance to find that common ground and a path forward.
For those of us who lived through the long years of the civil rights and women’s rights movements, the speed with which more and more people have come to embrace the dignity and equality of LGBT Americans has been breathtaking and inspiring. We see it all around us every day, in major cultural statements and in quiet family moments.
But the journey is far from over, and therefore we must keep working to make our country freer and fairer, and to continue to inspire the faith the world puts in our leadership. In doing so, we will keep moving closer and closer to that more perfect union promised to us all. Thank you.