Unless you’re from, or currently living in, the state of Utah, then you probably don’t know who Spencer Cox is. A former lawyer, the 40-year-old Republican has been serving as the state’s eighth Lieutenant Governor since 2013. Before that, he was a member of the Utah House of Representatives. Today, however, Cox is best known for his stirring words about the tragic nightclub shooting in Orlando — mainly because the conservative politician used the opportunity to apologize directly to the LGBT community for his previous anti-LGBT stance.
Cox delivered his remarks at a vigil held in St. Lake City on Monday, prefacing the nine-minute speech with an explanation and a plea for understanding. Per a transcript published by KSL-TV:
I recognize fully that I am a balding, youngish, middle-aged straight, white, male, Republican, politician… with all of the expectations and privileges that come with those labels. I am probably not who you expected to hear from today.
Encouraged by the crowd’s laughter and a few cheers, Cox continued. What resulted was one of the most stirring things heard or seen since Saturday’s horrific events:
It made me sad. And it made me angry. And it made me confused. I’m here because those 49 people were gay. I’m here because it shouldn’t matter. But I’m here because it does. I am not here to tell you that I know exactly what you are going through. I am not here to tell you that I feel your pain. I don’t pretend to know the depths of what you are feeling right now. But I do know what it feels like to be scared. And I do know what it feels like to be sad. And I do know what it feels like to be rejected. And, more importantly, I know what it feels like to be loved.
As Esquire‘s Charlie Pierce put it, sometimes “a thin underground river of civility and humanity” will resurface in American politics. And when that happens, “we should celebrate it as best we can” by telling everyone about it. In the hopes that, perhaps, these shining moments of rarity will become the norm.
Hence what came next, when Cox recalled several LGBT classmates in high school he wasn’t kind to. “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,” he told the crowd while in tears, adding: “My heart has changed.”
Unlike Republican leaders’ recent blockage of a LGBT rights measure mere days after the Orlando shooting, Cox’s words emphasize what Uproxx’s Mark Shrayber dubs “the deeply-entrenched negative attitudes many people still hold toward those who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender.” That is, attitudes like the one Cox wielded as a Republican state politician before Saturday night.
Check out Lt. Governor Cox’s moving speech below: