Official: Applause, Hooting, Hollering After Clinton’s Plea for Gay Rights

By Patrick Goodenough | December 7, 2011 | 5:47am EST

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton defends the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender persons from around the world in a speech entitled "Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights", at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, International Human Rights Day. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

( – “Ninety-five percent” of the audience who heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deliver an unexpected plea for gay rights in Geneva on Tuesday stood up to applaud at the end, according to a senior State Department official.

“The mood in the room was extremely positive,” the official said during a background teleconference briefing afterwards. “There was a lot of applause and even some hooting and hollering when she finished.”

The official said the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights has been “a priority for the secretary.”

“She sees this as work undone in human rights in the world and work that she can be a voice for.”

Some five minutes into her 30-minute speech in the packed chamber, Clinton moved from a general overview of human rights advances since 1948 to the subject of her address – “one of the remaining human rights challenges of our times.”

She acknowledged that the topic was “sensitive for many people” but said that “we cannot delay acting.”

“Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human,” she said. “And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

The senior State Department official said during the background briefing that about 80 countries around the world still criminalize “LGBT status or conduct,” adding that those countries would be “priority areas” in the administration’s new policy.

Asked whether any countries’ representatives had not reacted favorably to the speech at its conclusion, the official replied, “I myself was so rapt with watching the speech that I wasn’t paying attention to who was sitting and who was standing. All I can say is that ninety-five percent of the hall was standing at the end and there was a sustained standing ovation.”

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