December 9, 2011
Obama, Clinton Elevate LGBT Issues in U.S. Foreign Policy
United States foreign policy will begin to include the protection and promotion of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons as part of its human rights efforts.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama directed all foreign assistance and diplomatic agencies to advance LGBT rights abroad. In a speech in Geneva later that day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
Together, Obama and Clinton made it clear that the U.S. government views the treatment of LGBT people as important as the treatment of women, children, ethnic minorities, and other peoples.
Religion, Clinton said, is not an acceptable justification for violence against LGBT persons. “Our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people,” Clinton said. “It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told the Christian Post, "I certainly don't believe homosexuals or anyone else should be flogged or put to death for their sexual sins. However, I don't believe homosexuals should receive special treatment over and above anyone else either. Secretary Clinton's remarks were more than likely a painless way for the Obama administration to placate the homosexual community in the U.S."
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese praised both actions. “[Secretary Clinton] showed the power of American leadership that calls on the world to live up to the idea that all people are entitled to basic human rights and dignity,” Solmonese said. “Along with today’s memorandum by President Obama, it is clear that this administration will not turn its head when governments commit or allow abuses of the human rights of LGBT people.”
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry objected to the new directives. “President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake,” he said.
While the new policies send a signal to the LGBT community, there may be little impact to U.S. foreign policy. Both the presidential memorandum and the speech avoided issues such as same-sex marriage, adoption, or workplace protections, focusing instead on the criminalization and punishment of homosexuality. Those human rights violations that were listed included the execution, torture, and imprisonment of persons because of their sexuality. Most nations that criminalize homosexuality also violate the human rights of religious minorities, women, and others.
Under the new directives, the U.S. will provide asylum to LGBT persons and to respond to cases of human rights violations against LGBT persons.
The State Department will require a discussion of LGBT rights as part of annual reports on human rights, and the effort will include a $3 million fund to assist international organizations that promote LGBT rights.