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Meredith Baxter Takes Center Stage at HRC Dinner

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Meredith Baxter took center stage at the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas dinner in Raleigh, N.C., over the weekend. The 62-year-old actress made her first major address for an LGBT advocacy organization since coming out late last year.

Clay Aiken and HRC president Joe Solmonese also gave passionate speeches, but it was the Family Ties star, well-regarded for her public speaking tours on breast cancer awareness and her battle with alcoholism, who really struck a chord with the packed crowd.

After joking her way through a brief recap of her coming-out experience ("My big public moment was a big news item for about five minutes because ... I owe a major debt of gratitude to Tiger Woods"), Baxter moved on to talk about harassment in schools, "don't ask, don't tell," and the need for strong leaders to push gay rights forward.

Speaking of a young student in upstate New York who was ignored by school officials when students harassed him for being gay, Baxter said, "Students said that he ought to die, and one of his teachers told him that he ought to be ashamed. ... You have to ask, What kind of society creates these harassing students and these unsympathetic teachers? Our society. And when you look at some of the laws of our society, it's not hard to see why."

Baxter went on to say that laws like "don't ask, don't tell" are the government's message to students and teachers that it's OK to harass and discriminate.

Watch the whole speech here.

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