Bill Clinton Calls for ENDA, Immigration Reform at L.A. GLAAD Awards
It was a typically star-studded night for the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, but it climaxed with a serious speech from former president Bill Clinton that was briefly punctuated by a heckler.
GLAAD's 24th Annual Media Awards in Los Angeles was held Saturday in the downtown Marriott (it was preceded by an event in New York and will be followed by one in San Francisco). After presentations and awards for positive LGBT potrayals in media, motion picture power player Harvey Weinstein and Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence introduced Clinton, who, after receving much applause, joked that Lawrence looked at him like she was "touring an exhibit at the Natural History Museum."
Clinton thanked GLAAD for humanizing LGBT issues for the American public, then said the whole history of our nation was "stumbling in the right direction."
Edie Windsor, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case against the Defense of Marriage Act, called Clinton to say she couldn't attend the Los Angeles event. "We're all pulling for her health. I want her to be around to celebrate her victory."
Clinton said he, President Obama, and Vice-President Biden are all pushing for an end to DOMA, legislation Clinton signed in 1996 that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
"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."
In the middle of that sentence, a man in the audience screamed, "You signed it!" It wasn't clear if Clinton heard the heckler.
"I believe you will win the DOMA fight and I think you will win the constitutional right to marry," Clinton said. "If not tomorrow, then the next day and the next day."
Clinton said he was pleased that GLAAD still had a full agenda and trumpeted his attempts at passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would have protected people from being fired for being gay. "We still need to pass that. From what you've seen tonight we still need to fight bullying and the right kind of immigration reform that doesn't discriminate against anybody."
"We're about halfway home on that," Clinton said about the Boy Scouts' ban on openly gay scouts and leaders (the BSA recently announced they're considering out scouts, but will continue the ban on gay leaders).
The 42nd president then thanked his daughter Chelsea, who had a "profound impact on the way I see the world... Chelsea and her gay friends and her wonderful husband have modeled to me the way we ought to all treat each other without regard to our sexual orientation or any other artificial difference that divides us."
"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 said, adding later that, "We are less racist, less sexist, for all the problems, we're far less homophobic than we used to be, but we have a new bigotry in America. Apparently, we don't want to be around anyone who disagrees with us about anything...Whenever we turn away from treating someone with the dignity and honor and respect we would want accorded to ourselves, we have to face the fact that it's about to us and we're afraid we wouldn't be us if we couldn't hold on to this, that, and the other little box that doesn't make any sense in a world we're all crashing together in."
"Ask yourself did we ever win a great cultural battle and we can't pass ENDA," Clinton said, pushing again for inclusive immigration reform. "The whole story of the life of our country, of a more perfect union, is to widen the circle of opportunity, to strengthen and enhance the reach of freedom and cement the bonds of community as it gets ever more diverse. Don't you let anyone tell you otherwise. You have made this a better, a more interesting, and a more well-prepared country for the future. We need you fully-armed for the continued struggle for equality. You are the agents of change."
"I'm getting this award because I'm the object of your affections, or not, whatever the case may be," he said, before thanking Chelsea for convincing him to get involved in fighting North Carolina's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and supporting marriage equality in New York State.
Before Clinton's speech, entertainment attorney Steve Warren received the Stephen P. Kolzak for his commitment to GLAAD for LGBT equality. Warren's clients Charlize Theron and Leonardo DiCaprio gave him the award and the attorney gave a rousing speech bashing homophobic senator Saxby Chambliss and Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.
Earlier, The New Normal won an award for best comedy; the show features a gay couple as two of its main characters. Out creator Ryan Murphy accepted the award and dedicated it to Sarah Paulson, the lesbian actress who stars on his show, American Horror Story. Click here to read more about the night and watch Clinton's speech below.