Mormon Republican senator Orrin Hatch says LGBT youth deserve ‘our unwavering love and support’

Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in US history, has spoken out about mental health challenges among LGBT youth.

In a speech at the US Senate, the 84-year-old politician warned of suicide prevention among young people experiencing discrimination.

“The suicide epidemic has touched all sectors of our society, but the problem is particularly acute among LGBT youth, who experience bullying and discrimination at every turn,” Hatch said.

“LGBT youth deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society, but that it is far better off because of them.”

Hatch, who has previously spoken out against issues such as same-sex marriage, also spoke in favour of creating a three-number suicide prevention hotline.

Research has shown high suicide rates among LGBT youth (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty)

“These young people need us — and we desperately need them,” he said.

“We need their light to illuminate the richness and diversity of God’s creations. We need the grace, beauty, and brilliance they bring to the world.”

A US study published last year found lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning teenagers are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers.

Of the national survey of almost 16,000 youth, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, around one quarter said they had attempted suicide at least once in the previous year.

Around 40 percent of the teenagers who identified as a sexual minority said they had considered suicide and 35 percent said they had planned a suicide attempt.

Hatch is the longest-serving Republican senator in US history (Getty)

Hatch, who is Mormon and from Utah, has recently softened his approach to LGBT rights.

In the 1990s, he supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex couples recognition and federal marriage benefits.

In 2013, he endorsed the right of same-sex couples to form civil unions, although said he was against gay marriage.

In an interview with Utah radio station KVNU, Hatch said he “draws the line on traditional marriage.”

“I’ll say this, I do believe this could be solved greatly by a civil union law that would give gay people the same rights as married people,” he said.

“I think we can solve this problem without undermining the very basis of marital law in our country.”