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WATCH: Utah Lt. Governor Apologizes For Past Attitude Toward Gay People

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox spoke on Monday evening at a vigil in Salt Lake City to honor the people killed and wounded in the weekend shooting at an Orlando gay club. Cox, a Republican, struggled to keep his voice from breaking as he apologized for bullying gay people in the past.

"I grew up in a small town and went to a small rural high school," he told the crowd. "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 grew up in rural Sanpete, Utah, in the central part of the state, and belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He became lieutenant governor in 2013 and is up for re-election this fall.

During his speech, Cox also delivered a message to those who might judge the people who were murdered.

"How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist?" he asked. "That's the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 a.m. in the morning?"

"If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong," he said.

Read the full transcript here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.