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Watch Kerry Washington's emotional speech on equal rights

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Kerry Washington brought the crowd at the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media awards to its feet, whooping and cheering, after her powerful speech on equal rights for women, bisexuals, transexuals, immigrants and those with disabilities.

"On Monday morning, people are going to click a link to hear what that woman from Scandal said at that awards show, and so, I think some stuff needs to be said," began the star, 38, who won the Vanguard Award for her work in promoting equality.

"There are people in this world who have the full rights of citizenship, in our communities, our countries, around the world, and then there are those of us who, to varying degrees, do not. We don't have equal access to education, to health care and some other basic liberties like marriage, a fair voting process, fair hiring practices."

"Now, you would think that those kept from our full rights of citizenship would band together and fight the good fight. But history tells us that no, often, we don't."

"Women, poor people, people of colour, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, inter-sex people, we have been pitted against each other and made to feel like there are limited seats at the table for those of us that fall into the category of 'other.'

"As a result, we have become afraid of one another. We compete with one another, we judge one another, sometimes we betray one another. Sometimes even within our own communities, we designate who among us is best suited to represent us and who, really, shouldn't even really be invited to the party. As 'others,' we are taught to be successful we must reject those other 'others' or we will never belong," she continued.

Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres, Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes at the GLAAD Media Awards

Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres, Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes

"So in 1997, when Ellen (DeGeneres) made her famous declaration, it took place in an America where the Defense of Marriage Act had just passed months earlier and civil unions were not yet legal in any state. But also remember, just 30 years before that, the Supreme Court was deciding that the ban against interracial marriages was unconstitutional. Up until then, heterosexual people of different races couldn't marry who they wanted to marry either." 

"So when black people today tell me that they don't believe in gay marriage...So, the first thing that I say is 'Please don't let anybody try to get you to vote against your own best interest by feeding you messages of hate.' And then I say, 'You know people used to stay that stuff about you and your love and if we let the government start to legislate love in our lifetime, who do you think is next?'"

"We can't say that we believe in each other's fundamental humanity and the turn a blind eye to the reality of each other's existence and the truth of each other's hearts. We must be allies and we must be allies in this business because to be represented is to be humanised and as long as anyone, anywhere is made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake and we are all vulnerable."

"We must see each other, all of us and we must see ourselves, all of us and we have to continue to be bold and break new ground until this is how it is, until we are no longer 'firsts' and 'exceptions' and 'rare' and 'unique'. In the real world, being an 'other' is the norm."

Washington is best known for her role as Olivia Pope on Scandal which is recognised as a LGBT-inclusive television show. The actress is a longtime supporter of equality for LGBT people participating in GLAAD's annual Spirit Day, a campaign to end anti-LGBT bullying, and has advocated for marriage equality in America and around the world.

Watch Kerry Washington's powerful speech below

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