Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox delivered a passionate speech on Monday night at a vigil to honor the victims and survivors of the Orlando shooting. In his remarks, the 40-year-old Republican apologized to the LGBT community and vowed to support them in the future.
"I recognize fully that I am a balding, youngish, middle-aged straight, white, male, Republican politician — with all of the expectations and privileges that come with those labels," he said.
Cox spoke about his upbringing in a small rural high school and admitted that he was not kind to some of the gay students in his class.
"I regret not treating them with the kindness, dignity, and respect — the love — that they deserved," Cox said, his voice shaking. "For that, I sincerely and humbly apologize."
Cox said that his heart changed after working with LGBT people and experiencing their kindness.
"You have been very patient with me, as I went through this change. You even helped me learn the right letters of the alphabet in the right order — even though you keep adding new ones," he said, to chuckles from the audience.
Cox's speech was so apparently heartfelt that it moved even Modern Family actor and LGBT activist Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who shared it with his Twitter followers.
The Republican Party traditionally has not been very friendly to the LGBT community. In the past year, Republicans in state legislatures proposed more than 150 bills to restrict LGBT rights. And in the wake of the Orlando shooting, Republicans in Congress blocked an LGBT rights amendment.
It is refreshing to have a leading Republican politician in a very red state become an advocate for people who are LGBT. And, as Ferguson observed, Cox's change of heart speaks to the possibility that others may also grow and evolve.
At the end of his remarks, the lieutenant governor asked the crowd to "try to love someone that is different than us."
"For my straight friends, might I suggest starting with someone who is gay?"