Bill Clinton Speaks on ENDA, Gets Heckled at GLAAD Awards

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday April 23, 2013

GLAAD's Media Awards, held in Los Angeles, was filled with celebrities ready to honor their peers' efforts regarding their outstanding reputations of the LGBT community. Everyone from Andrew Rennells ("The New Normal" and "Girls") to "Kyle XY" actor Matt Dallas and Jennifer Lawrence attended. Former President Bill Clinton also made an appearance and gave a powerful speech about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and immigration reform.

Lawrence and film producer Harvey Weinstein introduced Clinton, who was given the first advocate for change award. The 42nd president thanked GLAAD and the American public for humanizing LGBT issues. He also thanked the LGBT organization for its efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal measure that would protect workers from being fired because they are gay or transgender.

"We still need to pass that. From what you've seen tonight we still need to fight bullying and the right kind of immigration reform that doesn't discriminate against anybody," Clinton said. "Ask yourself did we ever win a great cultural battle and we can't pass ENDA. The whole story of the life of our country, of a more perfect union, is to widen the circle of opportunity, to strengthen and enhance the reach of freedom and cement the bonds of community as it gets ever more diverse.

"Don't you let anyone tell you otherwise. You have made this a better, a more interesting, and a more well-prepared country for the future," he continued. "We need you fully-armed for the continued struggle for equality. You are the agents of change."

Clinton also touched upon the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that prevents same-sex couples from marrying - the measure Clinton himself signed in 1996.

"I believe you will win the DOMA fight, and I think you will win the constitutional right to marry. If not tomorrow, then the next day, or the next day," he said. "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."

After Clinton spoke about DOMA, a heckler shouted "You signed it!" the New Civil Rights Movement noted. The former president didn’t seem to be phased by the comment and continued on with his speech.

Drew Barrymore hosted the star-studded award show and a number of celebrates performed, including Darren Criss of "Glee" and Kelly Rowland. Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron, Chaz Bono, Ryan Murphy were also in attendance.

When it was reported that Clinton was would be honored at the GLAAD Awards, many criticized the decision - especially after the president was under fire for an op-ed piece he wrote for the Washington Post in which he urged the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA. Many political pundits, bloggers, and activists echoed the heckler’s sentiments and rejected Clinton’s piece as a political expediency.

Clinton signed DOMA because "he refused to be leader on a civil rights issue, irrationally fearful of the ramifications of vetoing the bill and rationalizing the damage caused by signing it," Michelangelo Signorile wrote in The Huffington Post. The Washington Blade’s editor-in-chief, Kevin Naff, opined that Clinton’s late apology is a "typically cynical, desperate bid to rewrite history." He wrote that Clinton’s op-ed is "a naked attempt to get on the right side of history before the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA. He sounds desperate, highlighting the fact that ’DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.’"

Watch the video of Clinton’s speech below: