BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the heads of federal agencies engaged abroad 'to protect the human rights" worldwide of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
"The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights," Obama said in a memorandum released Tuesday morning.
The president directed all federal agencies "engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons."
"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," Obama said.
In recognition of Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday delivered a human rights policy speech at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Clinton's policy speech concentrated on gay rights.
"To LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone," Clinton said. "People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country and you have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people."
Among the specifics of Tuesday's announcement:
- "To effectively combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct."
- To protect "vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers."
- "Swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad."
Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights group, immediately praised the president and Clinton.
“The Obama Administration has made a tremendous difference in the lives of LGBT people in the United States and this new strategy helps to extend that presidential leadership across the globe,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese who met with Secretary Clinton earlier today in Geneva. “There is no question that the administration’s record of advancing equality for LGBT people has been enhanced by the leadership of Secretary Clinton who consistently underscores the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights.”
Other gay-rights activists also praised the directive.
“The United States showed extraordinary global leadership today by affirming the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "It is what we would hope for — and expect from — our country."
Said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality:
"Secretary Clinton spoke about LGBT rights at the UN in Geneva and expressed a strong U.S. position in support of respect and fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide, making a case that ensuring our human rights is a basic responsibility of the United States and the world."
Here's the president's complete memorandum: