Hatch giving his speech | Photo: YouTube/SenatorOrrinHatch
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch previously had less than kind words to say about the LGBT community. On Wednesday (13 June), he took the floor of the United States Senate and gave a compassionate speech about Pride month, signaling an apparent change of heart.
The 84-year-old Mormon who hails from Utah said in his speech that LGBT youth ‘deserve to feel loved, cared for and accepted for who they are’.
The moving moment is garnering headlines, especially in the face of the leader of his party, Donald Trump, who refuses to acknowledge Pride Month.
‘I rise today to address a public health issue that has in its wake left a trail of tragedy and shattered lives,’ Hatch begins. ‘A suicide epidemic has touched all sectors of our society. But the problem is particularly acute among LGBT youth who experience bullying and discrimination at every turn.’
‘No one should feel less’
The remarks are especially astounding coming from someone who once said in the 1970s that gay people shouldn’t teach in public schools because they have a ‘psychological deficiency‘.
Hatch’s speech yesterday was a moving about-face, when he said that ‘no one should feel less for their gender identity or sexual orientation’.
‘They deserve validation,’ he continued. ‘And not only assurance that there is a place for them in our society, but that it is far better off because of them. These young people need us — and we desperately need them. We need their light to illuminate the richness and diversity of God’s creations. We need the grace, beauty and brilliance they bring to the world.’
At one point in the speech he refers to his ‘LGBT brothers and sisters’ and believes everyone, regardless of ‘political stripes… has the duty to treat one another with dignity and respect’.
‘It is not simply to tolerate, but to love.’
Is it enough?
The crux of Hatch’s change of heart came from the CDC’s recent report about rising suicide rates.
He is also working on passing a bill that creates a three-number hotline for suicide prevention, similar to 911.
Furthermore, he opposed Trump’s trans military ban and supported the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. His views reflect a larger changing tide of support for the community.
Still, many wonder if this is enough.
The Senator, who is America’s longest-serving Republican Senator, is retiring this year. However, he still has time to act on his words, such as supporting the Equality Act.