Patricia Clakson speech for Gay Rights
Here’s the text of a speech I wrote with my friend Ron Marasco for the Human Rights Campaign’s recent gala in New Orleans. The clip of it is below. Enjoy!
I am so happy to be with all of you tonight. To celebrate the work you do–and to have a bourbon or two later.
The great Tennessee Williams wrote—
–of course I’m starting with Tennessee Williams. I’m in New Orleans, at the HRC gala, and I played Blanche DuBois.
Which is why I never go anywhere without a paper lantern in my purse.
Tennessee Williams wrote a line that I felt was appropriate for tonight. And appropriate to this time in our history, your history, and to the rights that everyone in this room is fighting for. It is a line that meant so much to him, it’s on his gravestone.
“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”
“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”
To me, its meaning is simple. The hard, the cold, the oppressive will–at long last–be broken apart by a force that is beautiful, natural, colorful, alive.
That’s what tonight is about, what the people in this room are about. We’re a bunch of violets breaking through the rocks.
And it is happening.
The rock is cracking away. The rock of hate and falsehood is being broken apart.
All across this country, regular Americans who were born and bred in towns where a gay couple wouldn’t dare walk down a street–all over these American Main Streets–something is changing.
Blue-collar guys are looking up from their work, grandmothers are speaking up at the dinner table; and they are saying something to members of their family, and co-workers, who are against gay marriage.
They are saying in one, increasingly-loud American voice, “Honey, rather than worry about who someone else loves–and why, think about who you hate–and why!”
The violets are breaking through the rocks.
America has always been a country of common sense. A country of innate goodness–although a goodness that is sometimes slow to action. As Winston Churchill said, “Americans are always ready to do the right thing. After they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”
We have exhausted all the other possibilities. And it is time to call an injustice an injustice.
It is an injustice that we send a gay or lesbian soldier to die in a war–to give their life for a country that won’t let them be legally bound to the person they love.

It is an injustice that a soldier gives their life for a Military–an exemplary Military in every way–except one in which they cannot have the picture of their lover cut-out in the shape of a heart and taped to their locker because that would be “telling.” Such a ugly word.
It is an injustice that, in this room, many of you pay your tax money to the very public institutions that deny you rights other Americans enjoy; pay your tax money for public schools that will not accept you as legal parents; pay your tax money for the paper on which they print the goddamn marriage licenses you cannot get.
And while you are paying your tax money for all of the above, a preacher can stand in the pulpit of a multi-million-dollar mega-church advocating the damnation of gay Americans and not pay one thin dime in taxes.
You know, I occasionally watch those preachers on the Christian TV stations.
I always think to myself: How can I believe your theology when I can’t believe your hair?
I find it intellectually offensive when people shrink the Bible to fit the small-mindedness of their bigotry.
Leviticus 18:22 and Deuteronomy 22:5…the famous list of the “abominations.” Bible verses which, by the way, also list as a mortal sin things like “the wearing of a garment made of two different kinds of fabric.”
Yes, the Bible verse they use to condemn homosexuality also calls Polyester-blend an abomination.
Well, in this, perhaps the Lord has a point. But if you took away all the Polyester-blends in those mega-churches….most of the women would be naked.
In my Bible I see no evidence of Jesus telling same-sex couples they cannot love each other.
And he could have. He was a carpenter–if he made good furniture every gay man in Nazareth knew Him.
The fact is: it’s happening.
All the violets–gay Americans, lesbian Americans, Bi-sexual Americans, transgender Americans, people of color, and the people of this city forgotten by Washington in hurricane Katrina–we are all are starting to break through the mountain of straight, white, male lawmakers in Washington.
Their time is over. And they know it. Which is why they are looking increasingly ridiculous and beleaguered. To me those guys look like one, big casting-call for the lead role in a very bad production of Death of Salesmen.
Because America is starting to say those lawmakers are wrong about “Don’t ask don’t tell,” and wrong to oppose gay marriage. The way they were wrong, wrong, wrong about the war in Iraq.
A war that was created by who? A straight, white man named George W. Bush. A straight, white man named Dick Cheney. And a straight, white man named Condoleezza Rice.
The rocks are breaking. And it’s time to call certain people on the hypocrisy of their stance against gay marriage.
Newt Gingrich: against gay marriage, but on his third wife.
That recent convert to an anti gay-marriage stance, Rudy Giuliani: third wife. Rush Limbaugh: vehemently against gay marriage and….yep, third wife. A third wedding that was performed by none other than Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Clarence Thomas: second wife.
4 men, eleven marriages, and you must be lectured on love by them? This Mount Rushmore of Divorce!
Ladies and gentlemen, as all of you in this room know so well, political activism tells us now what history will tell us later.
The people who support “don’t ask don’t tell;” and who oppose “gay marriage” are wrong. And their children and grandchildren will know they were wrong.
This is the age of Obama. And the people who oppose these causes need to realize that. But there is someone else who needs to realize that this is the Age of Obama.
It is time, Mr. President. Do not fall behind others on these issues. My God, Dick Cheney announced that he is in favor of gay marriage.
And on that very day, the National Weather Service reported hell froze over.
So Mr. President, please catch up. Or you are in danger of being considered “just to the right” of a man who is “just to the left” of Vlad-the-Impaler.
Newsweek magazine just said about gay marriage–and I quote: “This train’s left the station. Time to get on board.”
It is happening.
Something is changing.
Oh–there is still a lot of work to be done. But it will happen.
And when it does–when “Don’t ask don’t tell” is scrapped, when gay men and women can marry the people they love–when that day comes, people across this great land will be looking for a place to party.
And I say: Come on down to New Orleans! I’ll be so happy I might swing naked in a window on Bourbon Street!
Me and Rachel Maddow!
Yes, across America we will celebrate because, at long last, that day will have arrived. But to the people in this room–that day will not only have arrived for you, it will have arrived because of you.
Thank you HRC. Here’s to the violets.