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|Obama, Clinton announce new focus on LGBT rights abroad|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown and Ryan Watkins|
|December 08, 2011 11:08|
President Barack Obama issued a memorandum Dec. 6 directing government agencies to “promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” the same day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech for International Human Rights Day that stressed inclusion for gay and transgender people.
“Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. … I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time,” Clinton said during a speech at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a State Department transcript.
The secretary of state noted that she speaks “knowing that my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect” and also acknowledged “that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs.”
Gay rights and human rights “are one and the same,” Clinton said. She also challenged the notion that being gay is only an issue in Western countries.
“Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality,” she saiand, noting gay rights protections in South Africa and Mongolia.
Clinton called on leaders of nations that criminalize homosexuality to be brave enough to be “in front” of their population in advancing equality, and announced the creation of a Global Equality Fund to help “support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world.”
The United States has pledged $3 million to the fund, and Clinton urged others to also donate.
“This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups,” she said.
Clinton’s speech came just hours after President Obama issued his memo instructing U.S. government agencies to work to combat anti-LGBT violence and discrimination around the world, and to use foreign aid and assistance to help achieve that end. The State Department will also lead an inter-agency standing group that is prepared to offer swift responses to “serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.”
“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT Pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation,” the memo reads.
The president ordered agencies under the executive branch to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, protect LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, issue “swift and meaningful” responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad, and engage international gay rights organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.
“Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere,” the memo continues.
The president also ordered agencies to submit an annual report to the White House detailing progress toward achieving such directives.
LGBT organizations responded with praise for Obama and Clinton, while gay rights opponents were predictably outraged.
GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry, governor of Texas, condemning Obama’s “war on traditional American values.”
“Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money,” Perry said in a statement, according to ABC News.
Perry also claimed the president is “at war with people of faith in this country.”
“Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many [Americans] of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong. President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles,” Perry said. “I will not make that mistake.”
Top photo: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with LGBT activists and supporters in Geneva, Switzerland, prior to giving an International Human Rights Day speech focused on LGBT equality. (Photo by Erin Bridiers / State Department)
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