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Archbishop Tutu Speaks On Human Rights for Gay People

Friday April 11, 2008

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, arguably the most respected living Anglican (Episcopal), has condemned the persecution of gay and transgender people-and, apologized on behalf of his Church for ostracizing gay men and women.
Speaking to a congregation of 500 in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate said that speaking up for human rights was as important as the basic act of breathing.

He also challenged China to improve its human rights record on the eve of the US leg of the Olympic torch relay through the streets of San Francisco.

In his 30-minute address, Archbishop Tutu said that for his part it was impossible to keep quiet "when people were frequently hounded... vilified, molested and even killed as targets of homophobia... for something they did not choose-their sexual orientation".

In the face of this ongoing persecution, he praised gay and transgender people for being "compassionate, caring, self-sacrificing and refusing to be embittered".

He spoke critically of his Church, apologising for the way it has ostracized gay, lesbian and transgender people, and for making them feel as if God had made a mistake by creating them to be who they are.

"How sad it is," he said, "that the Church should be so obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when God's children are facing massive problems-poverty, disease, corruption, conflict..."

In a pertinent commentary on human rights in China, the Archbishop said he would pray for that country to do the right thing, use its clout to bring positive change in Tibet, Burma and Sudan, and improve its human rights record.

He suggested that world leaders boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympic games to protest China's record on human rights. He praised the US Congress and the First Lady in particular for being "on the side of angels" for their work on Burma.

Archbishop Tutu's speech was the highlight of A Celebration of Courage, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's (IGLHRC) annual gala awards ceremony, where he was presented with an OUTSPOKEN Award recognizing his leadership as a global ally of the gay and transgender community-and his outspokenness that has contributed substantially to advancing the rights and understanding everywhere.

The importance of speaking out on human rights was also underscored by the context of the evening's event, overlapping with a candle-lit vigil for Tibet in United Nations Plaza.

"When IGLHRC invited Archbishop Tutu to come to San Francisco to accept its OUTSPOKEN Award, we had no idea that our event would coincide with such a momentous time in the history of human rights activism," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC's executive director.

"The Archbishop's speech at this unique historical moment affirms that human rights apply to each and every human being-in South Africa, in the United States, in China, and around the world."

"Activists and governments alike should heed the Archbishop's words," she continued.

"He is a moral luminary whose inclusive approach to human rights advocacy paves the way for a better world."

In an interview with IGLHRC prior to the awards ceremony, Archbishop Tutu noted that although he has taken a strong stance on gay and transgender rights for many years, IGLHRC's A Celebration of Courage event marked the first time that an organisation had acknowledged his position on this issue.

"Archbishop Tutu is a rare and special individual who embodies human rights and morality," said Ms. Ettelbrick.

"He recognizes that all human beings are valuable, that we are all interdependent, and that our struggles are shared. We are so honored that he has chosen to attend our event... and accept IGLHRC's OUTSPOKEN Award."

Also at the event, IGLHRC Board Member Dorothy Sander presented IBM with a Special Recognition Award for its contributions to IGLHRC's global mission of building a strong and viable LGBTI human rights movement and for its leadership in promoting non-discrimination policies in all of its workplaces in the world.

IBM has been particularly supportive of IGLHRC's work in Latin America, sponsoring the Commission's 2007 Human Rights Training Institute in Costa Rica, which was devoted to developing the advocacy capacity of lesbian and bisexual women in Central America.

The music for the evening-which soared gloriously through the lofty Grace Cathedral and received a rapturous reception by the audience-was provided by Transcendence, America's first transgender gospel choir.

Grace Cathedral is home to one of the largest and most inclusive Episcopal congregations in the USA. It is well known in San Francisco for its commitment to social justice and providing a forum for civil discourse.

To watch an extract from an interview with Archbishop Tutu by KPIX RV that took place immediately prior to A Celebration of Courage, click HERE.

Archbishop Tutu preached on gay issues at Southwark Cathedral four years ago when he said: "The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority." On that occasion he told gays and lesbians: "I love you, I love you, I love you".

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