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Obama Directs International Agencies to Ensure Rights and Protection of LGBT People Abroad

President Obama today issued a memorandum directing the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies abroad to advance the human rights of and ensure the safety of LGBT people.

ObamaWrites Obama in the memorandum, which you can read below:

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. 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. That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, "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." Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.

By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.

The memo directs agencies to combat the criminalization of homosexuality, protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, enhance foreign aid to countries with respect to promoting LGBT rights, respond quickly to abuses of LGBT citizens abroad, and engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.

Read the memorandum, below:

In recognition of Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver a human rights policy speech on Tuesday, December 6, hosted by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

I'll be posting a livestream of it here at 11:55 am ET.

2011lgbt Mem Rel

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  1. There's not a great deal the U.S. can do to curb abuses overseas, but this document says we know and object and will do as much as possible in the cause of equality. So, yes, this is an important statement of administration polity.

    This is also, alas, a document that will be trashed in just over a year if a Republican gets elected president next fall.

    Posted by: K in VA | Dec 6, 2011 11:39:16 AM

  2. There's no doubt that GOProud supports the trashing of this document.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Dec 6, 2011 11:40:28 AM

  3. Although i commend his efforts until America has full equality for its own citizens it needs to stop preaching to other countries.Its ironic that he actually says 'No country should deny people their rights because of who they love' and that is exactly what USA does. Full equality in the USA first.

    Posted by: paul | Dec 6, 2011 11:48:16 AM

  4. @ Paul

    There is a big difference in not having marriage equality and not being able to assemble, be thrown in jail, or worse be executed.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Dec 6, 2011 11:56:47 AM

  5. @ Paul:

    "Brian in Texas" is right. Yes, we still have far to go in America, but we're light years ahead of many countries in the world, particularly in Africa.

    We should no more adopt an isolationist stance on LGBT rights than we should on any other rights or needs throughout the world.

    In other words, kudos to Obama and Clinton for this.

    Posted by: K in VA | Dec 6, 2011 12:03:26 PM

  6. I am wary of any attempts by the US to force its culture on other countries--you see how well that has worked out in the Middle East, don't you? Far better to be encouraging and supportive of those trying to bring about change in their own countries than to try to shame their governments into changing, which virtually never works and is often counter-productive.

    Secondly, I do not want a whole bunch of people trying to use being gay as an excuse for being granted political asylum. You might occasionally have an individual activist whose life is seriously threatened and who might therefore deserve some consideration, but, on the whole, simply living in a country where homosexuality is illegal or where homophobia is widespread should NOT be a legitimate reason to allow someone to immigrate to this country--HUGE potential for abuse there.

    Posted by: Rick | Dec 6, 2011 12:11:36 PM

  7. REMINDER: Do not feed the trolls.

    Posted by: RyanInSacto | Dec 6, 2011 12:40:46 PM

  8. proud of Clinton and Obama. no sarcasm. Guess this also refers to countries with so-called federal and state "Defense of Marriage" laws

    Posted by: jim morrison | Dec 6, 2011 12:48:11 PM

  9. I'm sure a lot of blogs will jump over Obama for his gay marriage stance in reporting on this but I think this is an amazing statement. I can't imagine any of the Republican candidates even saying anything close to this. (Or even saying anyting at all about international LGBT rights). He may still drag on same-sex marriage but Obama is really the only president who has done anything for our community (and he has done so much. It is unfortunate that it gets ignored in the rush to critize him over his marriage stance).

    Posted by: KP | Dec 6, 2011 12:56:19 PM

  10. I live outside the US. What the US says about queer people, even though back home it's record is far from perfect matters a lot and it gives activists outside the US a lot of moral support to keep up the hard work.

    Posted by: John | Dec 6, 2011 1:03:06 PM

  11. Now would be an excellent time for Jason to come into this thread and lecture us on why he's voting for Newt Gingrich.

    Meanwhile, I see Rick has found his typical 'the sky is green, not blue' stance on a transparently positive story.

    Posted by: Gregoire | Dec 6, 2011 1:20:44 PM

  12. @Gregoire: Well done.

    Posted by: RyanInSacto | Dec 6, 2011 1:25:12 PM

  13. Listen up American LGBTs:

    LGBTs in many countries worldwide need Obama and Clinton even more than you do. It's unbelievably important for LGBT's in Third World countries, and this latest news is just one example.

    It took Obama a while to turn the massive US government around while dealing with a major recession and Republican obstructionism, but now he's moving fast ...but running out of time.

    In a second term, he could start from where he left off and significantly undo the damage done by Bush and Reagan.

    On the other hand, if Obama is defeated, Gingrish or Romney will systematically undo nearly everything that Obama has done.

    Put away your disapointments, cynicism and apathy and make sure Obama gets re-elected with Democratic majorities in both houses.

    Posted by: F. Young | Dec 6, 2011 1:29:42 PM

  14. Brian and K...good points. Totally hear you. Behind Obama one hundred and fifty percent on the reasons that F.Young points out. Sorry if it seemed that i was attacking Obama..I think he is fundamentally the most important and supportive President that we could possibly wish for.

    Posted by: paul | Dec 6, 2011 1:35:00 PM

  15. Perhaps we have turned a corner. I expected a lot more cynicism when I clicked on "Comments." Happy to be disappointed.

    Posted by: Jack | Dec 6, 2011 1:39:57 PM

  16. Always remember that though we can't get everything we deserve overnight, there is not a Republican candidate on EARTH that would ever defend the human rights of gay people abroad. Continue to vote democratic, and you will not only change your life, but the lives of gay and lesbian people around the world.

    Posted by: Michael C. | Dec 6, 2011 1:48:21 PM

  17. Amazing speech by Hilary and great memo from the Obama administration. I really hope the LGBT community can put away some of its disappointment in Obama and make sure he is re-elected next year. Any strides we have made will evaporate if any of the Republicans get in. I was over at Gay Americablog and the commenters there were ruthless with Hilary's speech. I don't know why - I guess in their opinion since LGBT individuals do not have equal rights in every single country in the world that Obama has failed.
    I know we all get a little inpatient but attacking one of our biggest allies every time he reaches out to the community just seems counterproductive. I am glad most of the commenters on Towleroad's post can see the silver lining of the speech. It won't end inequality but it still was a big moment for the movement.

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 6, 2011 2:41:56 PM

  18. @Gregoire: Jason and Rick are the same person. It's part of being schizophrenic and desperate for attention.

    The US is and will be the world's superpower for at least 30 more years. Likely longer. Even a weak US dollar is stronger than any other currency. (China didn't buy billions of dollars of US Treasury bonds just to be nice, though it had pernicious motives too.) Money and military provide a lot of sway internationally, and we have lots of both. This is a great statement and, as others have said, something that we would never get from a Republican. (Despite Newt having a gay sister, Cheney having a gay daughter, and so on.)

    Posted by: Paul R | Dec 6, 2011 2:54:06 PM

  19.'re consistently on the wrong side of every issue, which leads me to believe one of two're the worst kind of hetero or you're just plain ignorant. Oops, that's redundant isn't it?
    Actually, you're wasting a lot of time here and should move onto a site more suitable for's a link to the Concerned Nazi's of America. Click on it and don't come back.

    Posted by: paul b. | Dec 6, 2011 2:54:07 PM

  20. @Paul B. I take offense to you're suggestion that I'm either hetero or ignorant. I'm fact I'm college educated, member of GoProud and regularly dine with Ann Coulter. Her conversation is stimulating & opinions usually spot-on.
    I just don't like ifeminate men, hairy women, barache obama, thongs on men...yuck.
    But, I'm proud to be a masculine betcha!

    Posted by: RICK | Dec 6, 2011 3:03:17 PM

  21. Obama is sooooooo much better on LGBT issues than any Republican would ever ever be.

    Posted by: Seattle Mike | Dec 6, 2011 3:10:03 PM

  22. Just for the record (not because I care what anyone thinks), I am not Jason (or Tank or anybody else). And the guy who just posted under the name "Rick", beginning his post with "I take offense...." is not me, either (obviously). I am sure the proprietor of the site can confirm the truth of both of these statements, if he wants to.

    I really think that so many of you are so used to living in your politically correct boxes and in the cultural ghetto of "gayness" that it completely throws you for a loop when you encounter anyone who doesn't.....and you are left with nothing but personal attack as a response when some of your pre-digested ideology is called into question.

    Sad, but hardly surprising in a country where nobody thinks for themselves any more and nobody listens to anybody for any reason other than to reinforce their own opinions (which are often based on pure emotion rather than fact).....and the Left and the Right are equally bad in this regard.

    Posted by: Rick | Dec 6, 2011 3:11:57 PM

  23. iFeminate? Is that a new Apple product?

    Posted by: M. Bergeron | Dec 6, 2011 3:45:22 PM

  24. "and you are left with nothing but personal attack as a response when some of your pre-digested ideology is called into question."

    Rick, most liberals behave like that. They simply lack the critical thinking skills necessary to make any kind of coherent counterpoint. They have to throw a hissyfit and call people names.

    Seattle Mike, true, Obama is better on LGBT issues than *most* Republicans. But he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, so don't get too excited.

    Posted by: Max | Dec 6, 2011 6:41:05 PM

  25. state that Obama is better on LGBT issues than most Republicans. Let me ask you to name a Republican that you think is outside the "most" cagegory? Name a name pal...I would love a name! Is it one of the hopefuls...maybe Santorum? Let's hear you talk with facts and not out of your ass.

    Posted by: Paul B. | Dec 6, 2011 7:02:29 PM

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