Former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, was given the first Advocate for Change Award on Saturday evening at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, California (video below).
Clinton was honored with the award for his work on behalf of the LGBT community, particularly in his campaign to legalize marriage equality.
He began his acceptance speech by thanking GLAAD for honoring him and for their fight thus far to overcome discrimination.
“I think that the staff, the board of directors, and the most active supporters of GLAAD deserve the award I’m getting because they are the real agents of change,” said Clinton.
In his 14-minute acceptance speech, the former President pointed out the way some individuals view marriage equality.
“We have a new bigotry in America,” he said. “Apparently we don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us about anything. All these people around the world that have chosen a closed fist over an open hand…that’s about them, that’s not about the issue at hand or about other people.”
“Whenever we turn away from treating someone else with the dignity, and honor, and respect we would like accorded to ourselves, we have to face the fact that it’s about us,” he continued.
He also credits his daughter Chelsea for leading him to support New York’s act to pass marriage equality and to oppose North Carolina’s act to ban marriage equality.
“She had a profound impact in many ways on the way I see the world. It’s sort of humbling when you get to be my age and your child knows more than you do about everything,” he said.
“But Chelsea and her gay friends and her wonderful husband have modeled to me the way we all ought to treat each other without regard to our sexual orientation or any other artificial difference that divides us. Many of them come and join us every Thanksgiving for a meal. I have grown quite attached to them.”
Clinton ended this statement with a comment that had the audience applauding.
“And over the years, I was forced to confront the fact that people who oppose equal rights for gays in the marriage sphere are basically acting out of concerns for their own identity, not out of respect for anyone else.”
Clinton also made it clear that he will continue to support marriage equality across America, and believes it will be passed in the near future.
He said, “I want to keep working on this until not only DOMA is no longer the law of the land but until all people no matter where they live can marry the people they love. I believe you will win the DOMA fight, and I think you will win the Constitutional right to marry. If not tomorrow, then the next day or the next day.”