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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 49
U.S. will protect LGBT rights worldwide, Obama directive says
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U.S. will protect LGBT rights worldwide, Obama directive says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

President Obama issued an unprecedented directive to all federal agencies on December 6 ordering them to work to promote and protect LGBT rights in foreign countries.

The presidential memorandum directed 'all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.'

Among the steps required by the memorandum are active efforts to fight criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, as well as to support the protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

The president's directive also promised 'swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.'

In order to accomplish these objectives, the directive orders U.S. agencies involved with foreign aid and development projects to maintain regular contact with 'citizens, civil society, and the private sector' as well as foreign governments 'in order to build respect for the rights of LGBT persons.'

The U.S. will also try to engage international organizations 'in the fight against LGBT discrimination,' the directive says.

Obama also called for a progress report on LGBT rights from all federal agencies within 180 days, and once a year thereafter. The State Department was instructed to compile the information and submit it to the White House.

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the presidential memorandum is the first ever U.S. government strategy to deal with human rights abuses against LGBT people abroad.

'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,' HRC President Joe Solmonese said.

'There is no question that the administration's record of advancing equality for LGBT people has been enhanced by the leadership of Secretary [of State] Clinton who consistently underscores the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights.'

'As Americans, we understand that no one should be made a criminal or subject to violence or even death because of who they are, no matter where they live.

'Today's actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people.'

The U.S. State Department has previously warned individual countries about their actions against LGBT rights, and U.S. ambassadors have met with LGBT rights activists in several countries.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson personally phoned Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to express U.S. opposition to Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' bill, for example.

U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens met with the LGBT community in Honduras both before and after the murder of activist Walter Trochez. The State Department also called on the Honduran government to bring Trochez's murderers to justice.

Obama's directive raises such interventions to the level of standard operating procedure for U.S. officials working abroad.

The reaction from anti-Gay forces was exactly what might be expected.

Republican presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry said that 'President Obama has again mistaken America's tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.'

Pat Robertson promised that God would punish the U.S. for the new policy. 'When the blow comes, it's going to be horrible,' he said.

In Nigeria, a bill criminalizing Gay clubs or social organizations, same-sex commitments ceremonies, and same-sex displays of affection advanced to the country's House after being passed by the Senate on November 29.

'To hell with the superpowers if they are for Gay marriages,' said Nigerian lawmaker Zakari Mohammed.

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