Obama Administration Comes Out in Defense of Gay People's Rights

A man holds up a sign in gay pride colors. U.S. federal agencies engaged in overseas affairs should use all available tools of diplomacy and foreign aid to promote and protect the rights of gay people around the world, according to U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo by: Carosaurus / CC BY-NC-SA

U.S. federal agencies engaged in overseas affairs should use all available tools of diplomacy and foreign aid to promote and protect the rights of gay people around the world, U.S. President Barack Obama said Dec. 6.

In a memorandum that elevates the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world as a key plank of U.S. foreign policy, Obama said he is instructing “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT person.”

Among Obama’s specific directives are for agencies such as the Millennium Challenge Corp., U.S. Agency for International Development and the departments of State and Defense to combat the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender status or conduct abroad, protect LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, and respond swiftly to cases of human rights abuse of gay people abroad.

Obama has also instructed USAID and other agencies involved in foreign assistance and development to use U.S. aid for the protection of human rights of gay people and to promote nondiscrimination. Further, the State Department and other federal agencies engaged abroad should boost collaboration with multilateral organizations to bring more global attention to LGBT issues, the memo directs.

Obama’s memo did not give details on how U.S. federal agencies would carry out these directives, particularly on the use of foreign aid.

Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson of the National Security Council, did note Obama’s directive does not include “cutting or tying” aid to changes in practices of other countries with regards to LGBT rights, The New York Times says.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke about this new direction of U.S. foreign policy at the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Switzerland, has unveiled a Global Equality Fund that would support civil society organizations working on LGBT rights around the world. Clinton said the United States is committing more than $3 million to the fund and invited other countries to support it.

Among possible contributors to the fund is the United Kingdom, which has announced it was considering imposing aid sanctions on countries that criminalize homosexuality.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.