Utah’s Republican lieutenant governor surprised many with his speech at a vigil for victims of the Orlando shooting on Monday, where he apologized for his previous attitude and actions against LGBT people, KSL.com reported.
Addressing a crowd mourning the 49 people who were shot early Sunday morning at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox acknowledged that as a straight, white, Republican man, he was not the most obvious choice to speak at the vigil.
But Cox said he was extremely moved by the event and felt the need to apologize, KSL reported.
“I grew up in a small town and went to a small rural high school,” he said, according to the news site. “There were some kids in my class that were different. Sometimes I wasn’t kind to them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now that they were gay. I will forever regret not treating them with the kindness, dignity and respect — the love — that they deserved. For that, I sincerely and humbly apologize.”
Cox said that in meeting LGBT people he has been educated and gotten to know and love many people from that community.
“Over the intervening years, my heart has changed,” he said, according to KSL. “It has changed because of you. It has changed because I have gotten to know many of you. You have been patient with me. You helped me learn the right letters of the alphabet in the right order even though you keep adding new ones. You have been kind to me.”
The lawmaker went on to say that there are no easy solutions to the problem of gun violence. He posited that it could not be solved by politics, only kindness, quoting both Jesus and Mohammed.
“May we try to listen more and talk less,” he said, according to KSL. “May we forgive someone that has wronged us. And perhaps, most importantly, try to love someone that is different than us. For my straight friends, might I suggest starting with someone who is gay.”
Watch the full speech below, with Cox’s speech starting at 38:32, via the Salt Lake Tribune