The Obama administration in the U.S. has declared that it will use all the tools at its disposal, including foreign aid and diplomacy, to promote rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people across the world.
In a statement issued in Washington on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he had already directed all government agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and aid programs "promote and protect" the rights of gays and lesbians.
"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 the statement.
"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 added.
The statement does not specify the U.S. response to countries with poor records in gay rights protection, but it allows U.S. agencies working overseas to consult international rights organizations on discrimination. White House described the move as the "first U.S. government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad."
Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had stressed that "gay rights are human rights." She also called on the international community to ensure and protect gay rights.
"It should never be a crime to be gay. Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality," Clinton told the forum. "Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct, but in fact they are one and the same."
Acknowledging the sensitivity of the subject in several conservative countries, she noted that "the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights" of gay, bisexual and transgender people "rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural and religious beliefs."
Stating that LGBT community is still "an invisible minority" with their rights denied in many countries where homosexuality remains a criminal offense, Clinton urged global leaders to stand up "for the dignity of all citizens and persuading your people to do the same."
She was apparently referring to leaders in conservative countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Somalia and several African nations where homosexuality is highly discriminated against and punishable by death. Some of those nations are staunch U.S. allies and receive frequent aid from Washington.
The administration's latest move is seen by an effort by President Obama to attract the support of the gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the United States ahead of the 2012 presidential election. The Obama administration has successfully repealed the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" law earlier this year, there by allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the U.S. military.
However, the move has drawn strong criticism from Republican presidential candidates, with Texas Governor Rick Perry saying that "promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America's interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers' money."
Stating that the new policy was "wrong, silly and out of touch" with American values, Perry accused the Obama administration of being "at war with people of faith in this country." He stressed that investing tax dollars in "promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong."
by RTT Staff Writer
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