Bill Clinton urges US LGBT activists to continue equality push

Bill Clinton urges US LGBT activists to continue equality push

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Bill Clinton urges US LGBT activists to continue equality push

Former US president Bill Clinton addresses the 18th annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Dinner in Washington on Oct. 25. AFP Photo

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton encouraged gay rights activists to continue their push to bring down barriers Oct. 25, following recent court victories for gay marriage advocates in the United States.

"I've never seen a civil rights movement, at least in our country, move as far and as fast as your movement, ever" Clinton said in Washington at the annual gala for LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Same-sex couples can now marry in 32 of the 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Colombia, following a raft of recent court decisions.

At the beginning of October gay marriage was allowed in only 19 states plus Washington. "But don't kid yourself... there are still barriers that need to be brought down," Clinton said.

"All over the world there are young people who still have to cower in fear of their governments, their leaders and sometimes their families," Clinton said.

HRC, which advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, is also active abroad, especially in Africa.

"We will prevail in a dangerous world if we have the best model of freedom and justice, equality and opportunity, the kind of things people want to be a part of, where everybody can be who they are," Clinton said.

Clinton, a former governor of Arkansas, also applauded an HRC awareness campaign in three southern Conservative states - Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.

The former Democratic president has publicly expressed regret that he signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law while he was president in 1996, denying federal benefits to married gay and lesbian couples by strictly defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law in 2013.

Clinton, who was given an ovation by the crowd of more than 3,000, also stressed the commitment of his wife, Hillary Clinton - a possible candidate for the 2016 presidential election - to gay rights.