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  • clayaikenClay Aiken was every teenie bopper’s heartthrob until he announced he was gay. Since then, his music career has slipped a bit, but Clay still has a future — as a Gay activist or even member of Congress!

    Aiken has decided to speak out on gay rights in his home state of North Carolina, which could have proved dangerous to his health at one time of day.

    But North Carolina is on the cutting edge of the New South, and Aiken symbolizes its increasingly tolerant and progressive future.

    “We have a great deal of more work to do,” he said during a kickoff speech at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. “Our time is now, and it’s about damn time,” Aiken said.

    Aiken, the American runner up to Ruben Stoddard in season two, came out in September 2008, after much speculation about his sexuality. Aiken kept his orientation secret during the competition.

    In fact, he explained why he waited to come out to his fans, known as Claymates.

    “What the hell took me so long? I was waiting like so many folks are waiting… for change,” Aiken said. “I realized the time for waiting has passed. The power of truth and living honestly is very liberating.”

    Aiken has an 18-month-old son, Parker. The baby was conceived with longtime friend Jaymes Foster through “in vitro fertilization.’

    The crowd included former “Family Ties” star Meredith Baxter, who recently come out about of the closet, after two marriages and living in secrecy for years.

    Watch Clay’s speech here: