Senator Orrin Hatch Gives Vital Pride Month Suicide Awareness Speech

Senator Orrin Hatch has been a vocal opponent of LGBT rights in the past, particularly on issues surrounding same-gender marriage. But this past week he stood in the Senate to deliver a 10-minute speech in which he honored Pride Month and highlighted the struggle of LGBT youth facing suicide.

Addressing the Senate, the senior Congressman for Utah chose to use the Pride Month of June to highlight that a recent rash of high-profiled suicides further emphasize how vulnerable LGBT youth are, and that the country has a duty to protect them.

“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,” Senator Hatch said, ”In the most devastating cases, these teenagers even face estrangement from their own families. That’s why today, in honor of Pride Month, I wish to devote a significant portion of my remarks to them—my young friends in the LGBT community.”

He continued, “Mr. President, the prevalence of suicide, especially among LGBT teens, is a serious problem that requires national attention. No one should ever feel less because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 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. These young people need us—and we desperately need them. 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.”

Senator Hatch went on to highlight legislation that he has championed known as the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill that would look at how to create one simple and unified dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system. The legislation is non-political, non-partisan and entirely necessary.

The Senate has passed the legislation and now Senator Hatch has called on the House to push the bill through committee and to the floor without delay.

You can watch part of the Senator’s speech below:

Wait, I thought Senator Hatch Was Against LGBT Rights?

The senator has been a vocal opponent of some LGBT rights measures, in particular same-gender marriage and family rights. He is also a known supporter of increasing the scope of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion to include the right to refuse minorities, including LGBT people, services.

Has the senator had a change of heart? Is he hoping to recast his image before he retires from the Senate later this year? Actually, this misunderstands the difficult balancing act the Senator has been trying (but failing) to walk for a number of years now.

While the Senator has been somewhat more quiet recently on the issue of same-gender marriage and a constitutional amendment banning federal recognition, he has continued to support the Mormon Church, of which he is a part, against same-gender marriage and family rights.

It is worth noting, however, that he has stood against the Trump administration’s anti-trans military ban, saying that the military should welcome all service personnel who are capable of carrying out the duties invested in them.

On the other hand, Senator Hatch has praised the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-gender couple that would have been used to celebrate their marriage. Senator Hatch said, “religious freedom means much more than freedom from government hostility. Courts must protect the ability of believers to freely live their faith and to express their religious beliefs openly and honestly.”

It is important, therefore, to reflect on this latest Pride Month statement from the retiring Senator not as a parting attempt to expunge anti-LGBT rhetoric from his record, as some news sites have cast it, but rather as an attempt to bring new life and attention to a cause that he has spent a significant proportion of his time supporting.

Why Senator Hatch’s Statement Matters

There is certainly a logical disconnect in Senator Hatch’s thinking. You can’t effectively protect LGBT youth while also backing the extraordinary use of religious freedom to deny those same youth services. Yet, the Senator appears to be operating in good faith.

There is real value in Senator Hatch, a notable and senior Republican figure, using his time as a landmark for LGBT inclusion. His words give a vital voice to more moderate Republicans to continue this example. At a time when the Trump administration has emboldened some of the most callous policymaking and legislation, that call is not a waste.

Furthermore, the Trump administration has yet again refused to acknowledge June as Pride Month, a deliberate snub that Senator Hatch and other lawmakers have noted and appear to have taken issue with.

Lastly, Senator Hatch’s National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act is a critical bill. That he specifically addressed it during Pride Month carries a wider recognition of how LGBT youth suffer disproportionately under the burden of discrimination and poorer mental health.

These are things that can be changed and things that must be changed.

Take Action!

Ensure that vulnerable people get the help they deserve, sign the petition today in support of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act!

Want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling? You too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

38 comments

Elaine W
Elaine W9 months ago

I am surprised at a new viewpoint from Senator Hatch.

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Lesa D
Past Member 9 months ago

petition signed June 20 2018...
#25441 supporters...
#4559 signatures to reach goal of 30000 ~ PLEASE SIGN!

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Lesa D
Past Member 9 months ago

thank you Steve...

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Dave fleming
Past Member 9 months ago

Well done that man , sence at last .

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Danii P
Past Member 9 months ago

TYFS

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Danii P
Past Member 9 months ago

TYFS

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Danii P
Past Member 9 months ago

TYFS

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Julie D
Julie D9 months ago

Amazing coming from Orin Hatch. But thank you Sir!

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Leo C
Leo C9 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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silja salonen
silja s9 months ago

let us hope he is heard.

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