US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has upped global GLBTI rights discussions by declaring “Gay rights are human rights.”

The Advocate
reports this morning that Clinton made the declaration before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 State Department employees celebrating gay pride at the agency’s Loy Henderson Auditorium in Washington, D.C. last summer.

Clinton called on the staff members before her to help create a safe space for gays and lesbians everywhere, “particularly young people, particularly teenagers who still, today, have such a difficult time and who, still, in numbers far beyond what should ever happen, take their own lives rather than live that life.”

Men and women around the world were being “harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love,” she said.

“This is a human rights issue,” Clinton told the rapt audience.

She ad-libbed, recalling an oft-quoted line from a landmark speech on women’s rights at a U.N. conference in China: “Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing — that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights — well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.”

According to The Advocate, when asked months later what was going through her mind when she offered the unscripted line at the pride celebration, Clinton responded with her inimitable laugh.

“Oh, heavens, I don’t know—I don’t know. I was looking out at the audience where a lot of longtime friends, political supporters, colleagues were sitting, and it just seemed so important and right to make that statement.”

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