New Case Made for World LGBT Rights by Obama Administration

By: Jase Peeples

The Advocate’s Andrew Harmon reports Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on all countries to respect the civil rights of LGBT individuals in a historic address before the United Nations in Geneva. The Secretary also announced new U.S. initiatives to support organizations working to protect gay people who are marginalized and targeted with violence.

Secretary Clinton's speech followed a memorandum issued Tuesday morning by President Obama, who in a multifaceted strategy directed federal agencies engaged abroad to defend LGBT rights. Both developments follow previous State Department and White House pronouncements supporting the global fight against anti-LGBT persecution.

"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," Clinton said in her address at the Palais des Nations before an audience of about 1,000 people, according to one estimate. "In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse.... 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."  

"Being LGBT does not make you less human," Clinton said to the audience, which included delegates from countries that criminalize homosexuality. "And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," Clinton said, revisiting remarks she made at the State Department in Washington last year that played on her own 1995 women’s rights speech in Beijing.

But around the world, Clinton said, LGBT people are an “invisible minority” who are “routinely arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed.” More than 80 countries currently have anti-LGBT criminal laws.

"Even though progress on this front is not easy, we cannot delay acting," Clinton said. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love?’”

The goals on global LGBT rights as outlined by the presidential memo Tuesday seek to:

• Combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad.
• Protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
• Leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination.
• Ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad.
• Engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.

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