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Utah Lt. Governor speech after Orlando shooting resonates

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this March 11, 2015, file photo, Utah Sen. Stephen Urquhart, left, R-St. George, embraces Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox after the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature passed an anti-discrimination bill in Salt Lake City, Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY >> Amid the outpouring of grief after the Orlando nightclub massacre that left 49 people dead, a Republican lieutenant governor in a deep-red state stood at a vigil organized by an LGBT group and apologized.

In an emotional speech, Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox honored the slain and said he was sorry for how he treated kids growing up in his small hometown who he now realizes were gay.

“Over the intervening years, my heart has changed,” he said in the Monday speech. “You have treated me with the kindness, dignity, and respect — the love — that I very often did not deserve. And it has made me love you.”

His words have since resonated around the country and been tweeted by people like Dan Rather and Hillary Clinton.

“There is almost nothing that she and I agree on politically, but if we can agree on this, then that’s something,” Cox said in an interview today.

“We’ve become so divided as a country … but there’s this vast group of us who are just out there who believe we can disagree and still care about each other. It was sad to see that not happen in the moments after this horrific shooting,” Cox said Friday.

People have thanked him for articulating empathy with LGBT people from the perspective of a straight, white man who’s a member of the conservative Mormon faith — one that’s had a strained relationship with the LGBT community.

Equality Utah director Troy Williams, whose group organized the vigil where Cox spoke, said the speech was a meaningful recognition of the LGBT community’s grief at a time when overlapping issues like terrorism and gun control were also jockeying for place in the national conversation.

But Williams said there’s still work to do, pointing to Utah’s participation in a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government over transgender bathrooms.

“In many ways, he’s broken ranks and he’s stepped forward of his own volition to defend and comfort our community,” Williams said. “We hope this is the beginning of more dialogue.”

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  • Lt. Governor Cox really wants to do something productive, he needs to fight within government to have Utah withdraw from the ridiculous lawsuit against the federal government regarding the non-issue of transgender bathrooms. The state has been unable to identify even one case of anyone being harassed or assaulted by the (imaginary) bathroom farce, ever. They have no case and will ultimately lose – as they did in their fight against same sex marriage.

    If this is really in his heart, he should act on it and not just talk.

  • This is such a non issue. Who really cares who you sleep with? It’s simple treat everyone equally and can we clear something up? Gay=Happy, we should all be gay, I am, ask my wife.

  • Can’t we not accept his speech as is and take it as a “chickhen skin” moment of harmony among us? Must we find or create discord amidst a moment of unity? With faith, hope and love – the greatest of these is love. Let love prevails at this time! Aloha nui loa!

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