News / USA

Obama Elevates Gay Rights as a Foreign Policy Priority

President Obama in Kansas, December 6, 2011
President Obama in Kansas, December 6, 2011

President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued a directive elevating the the rights and treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people abroad as a priority in U.S. foreign policy.

A memorandum Mr. Obama sent to government agencies directs them to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, or LGBT persons.

He said he has been "deeply concerned" by violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons.  He cited foreign laws criminalizing LGBT status, the beating of LGBT citizens for joining peaceful celebrations, and the killing of men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation.

Mr. Obama said America's commitment to advancing human rights for all people is strengthened when it vigorously advances the goal of promoting LGBT rights.  Mr. Obama raised the issue at the United Nations General Assembly in September. "No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere," he said.

Treatment of LGBT people in other countries is already mentioned in annual State Department country human rights assessments.  Mr. Obama's directive elevates the issue's importance as a foreign policy priority.

In an address in Geneva on Tuesday, where the U.N. Human Rights Council is based, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about the importance of defending gay rights.  And she criticized nations that criminalize homosexuality or tolerate abuse of LGBT people. "No practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.  And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing," he said.

Mr. Obama has directed the State Department and other agencies to fight the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad, protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, and ensure "swift and meaningful" U.S. responses to "serious incidents" that threaten the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people abroad.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the administration's decision "the first-ever U.S. government strategy dedicated to combating the abuse of LGBT people abroad."

Darlene Nipper,  the organization's Deputy Executive Director, said "I think it is a fantastic culmination of what is clearly a progressive position on the White House's part to make a clear stance, and to take a leadership role on these issues internationally and worldwide."

But Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council criticized Mr. Obama's decision, saying it "throws the full weight and reputation of the U.S. behind the promotion overseas of the radical ideology of the sexual revolution." "President Obama is acting as if homosexual conduct has been universally-accepted as a human right, and that is simply not the case.  There is no treaty; there is no universally-accepted international statement, which declares homosexual conduct to be a human right.  So he is really acting on a fiction here," he said.

Texas Governor and Republican presidential contender Rick Perry called the announcement part of the Obama administration's "war on traditional American values," saying that Mr. Obama had "mistaken America's tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles."

Mr. Obama's directive on protecting LGBT rights globally will likely bolster the strong support he already enjoys from the LGBT community.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More