Berry Delivers Stirring Pride Speech
BY Kerry Eleveld
June 11 2009 12:00 AM ET
The tree of liberty grows by adding new rings, Berry said, and "we must not rest until our ring is secure. We shall be clear in our ends; we shall be honest and open; we shall work where our abilities allow; we shall continue to serve our country with bravery and distinction; we shall love who our hearts desire."
Berry capped his speech with two remarkably open and personal appeals to the audience.
Coming from a long line of men who served in the military, he told of his father's puzzlement at the nation's present treatment of gays who serve. "We didn't call 'em gays -- but they were there and they died as bravely as everyone else," Berry's father said to him in the year before he died.
Berry then recalled one of his good friends who was gay and had served in the Middle East. "His sacrifice and risk of life was no less dear than anyone. I ask America, where do you stand -- with his honorable service or with those who would make him lie to do so?"
In the final moments of his address, Berry revisited losing his partner of 10 years to AIDS after it reduced his athletic 190-pound body to just 90 pounds.
"I was his primary caregiver -- and I held him in my arms as he died. I would have gladly traded my life for his that night, just as I would do so now for my current partner of 12 years if ever need be. Were we married? No, but I dare anyone to say we were not in love. I was blessed by two supportive families and dear friends who honored our relationship. If I hadn't been -- I shudder to think -- because no power on earth could have kept me from his side.
"Again, I ask: Where do you stand? Honoring love as precious and true wherever you find it, or with those who would demean or deny it?
"I urge you. Stand where you can be proud. Stand with service and truth. Stand with love. Stand for liberty and justice for all," he concluded.