WATCH: Obama Invokes LGBT Rights in Mandela Eulogy
BY Trudy Ring
December 10 2013 2:31 PM ET
In his remarks at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service today, President Obama invoked gay rights in a statement about the many people around the world who still struggle for equality.
“Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love,” Obama said in his eulogy for South Africa’s first post-apartheid president at First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg.
Obama lauded Mandela for his role in ending South Africa’s official policy of racial segregation. He noted the many years Mandela spent in prison for his political activities and that when he was finally freed in 1990, “he would — like Abraham Lincoln — hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.”
“As he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal,” Obama continued. “And because he was not only a leader of a movement but a skillful politician, the constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.” In 1996, South Africa became the first nation with a constitutional provision banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Obama also mentioned Mandela’s role in fighting the HIV epidemic. Makgatho Mandela, the South African leader’s son, died of AIDS complications in 2005. Obama praised Nelson Mandela for “turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS.”
Noting that the global fight for human rights and social justice continues, Obama said, “The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today.”
Other speakers at the service included South African president Jacob Zuma, who delivered the keynote address; members of Mandela’s family; United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon; Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff; Chinese vice president Li Yuanchao; Indian president Pranab Mukherjee; and Cuban president Raúl Castro. The service closed with a message from former Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu, an ally of Mandela’s in the fight to end apartheid and a fellow LGBT rights supporter.
Watch President Obama’s remarks below, and read the White House transcript on the next page.