At a time when some nations maintain or are adopting laws that curb the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, the Obama administration is stepping in to aid homosexual communities worldwide — and throwing the weight of U.S. foreign aid behind its efforts.
In a memorandum released Tuesday, President Obama directed all federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.
“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’s commitment to promoting human rights,” Obama said in a statement.
The announcement marked the U.S. government’s first foray into combating human rights abuses against LGBT communities abroad. According to the directive, U.S. agencies operating abroad will now be tasked with combating criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, protecting vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, providing assistance to maintain human rights and guaranteeing swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad. The document also asked agencies to engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.
“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,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the gay advocacy organization, Human Rights Campaign.
Following the announcement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva about the policy decision and announced that $3 million would be set aside specifically for gay-rights organizations to fund their fight against discrimination, violence and other abuses against homosexuals.
“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct,” Mrs. Clinton said according to the New York Times, “but in fact they are one and the same.”
She received a prolonged, standing ovation from the delegates in the hall.
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(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)