Bill Clinton: My daughter Chelsea helped me change to support gay rights

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In his acceptance speech at the GLAAD Media Awards last weekend, former US President Bill Clinton, noted his daughter’s part in his change in stance on the issue of equal marriage.

Bill Clinton was a controversial choice for the Advocate for Change award, as he signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law during his presidency.

He has since changed his stance, and in March, the 42nd US President wrote an article for the Washington Post urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). He wrote that, despite signing it himself in 1996, we now live in a “different time” and it must be repealed.

During his acceptance speech, the former President said his daughter, Chelsea “has had a profound impact on the way I see the world. It’s sort of humbling when you get to be my age when your child knows more than you do about everything.”

“Chelsea and her gay friends have modeled to me how we should all treat each other regardless of our sexual orientation or any other artificial difference that divides us,” he continued. “Many of them come and join us every Thanksgiving for a meal. I have grown very attached to them.”

“And over the years, I was forced to confront the fact that people who oppose equal rights for gays in the marriage sphere are basically acting out of concern for their own identity, not out of respect for anyone else.”

Mentioning DOMA, Clinton went on to say that he would continue to work with equal marriage advocates until it is repealed.

“I want to keep working on this until not only is DOMA no longer the law of the land, but until all people — no matter where they live — can marry the people they love,” he said.

He went on to note that he was a controversial choice for some, and thanked Chelsea for her part in his change of stance, and GLAAD for honouring him with the award.

During his speech, the former President was berated by an audience member who shouted: “You signed it!”, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act.

“You are the agents of change. I got this award tonight, because I was the object of your affection – or not, as the case may be,” he added.

“My daughter led me to support the marriage equality law in New York when we were debating it, and to oppose North Carolina’s denial of marriage equality, and to do all these other things. So I want to thank her too. Thank you, GLAAD. Thank you, Chelsea.”

Clinton concluded by saying: “Whenever we turn away from treating someone with the dignity and honor and the respect that we would like accorded to ourselves, we have to face the fact it’s about us.”

The 24th annual GLAAD Media Awards took place in Los Angeles on Saturday, with awards for LGBT advocacy presented by Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron, among others, with Drew Barrymore hosting the evening.

Other presenters and attendees included Jennifer Lawrence, Tobey Maguire, Matt Bomer, Elle Fanning, Betty White, Chris Evans, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson.

In November, the US television network, NBC, received criticism after it was revealed that it blocked advocates of equal marriage from using a pro-equality advert featuring the former First-Daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

Clinton’s revelation has been compared by some to Senator Rob Portman who was among the original sponsors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became the first Republican Senator to announce that he has changed his anti-equal marriage stance last month. It followed the personal revelation of his own son’s coming out as gay.