President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have each made controversial statements regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community worldwide by urging other nations to abandon policies gay activists claim are discriminatory. The U.S. plans to help push that effort by using taxpayer funds to support the work of gay activists abroad.
At the White House Tuesday morning, Obama issued a memorandum to world nations controversially claiming that the fight for LGBT rights was part of the United States’ commitment to international human rights.
“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world,” Obama wrote. “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.”
The president added that his administration is active in helping agencies around the world promote putting the LGBT community on equal legal footing, adding that “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.”
In order to advance that directive, Obama listed several actions he hoped countries would take, including fighting laws viewed as “discriminatory” against LGBT persons, increasing help for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, and providing foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance non-discrimination.
At approximately the same time Obama's memorandum was released, Secretary Clinton gave a speech in Geneva, Switzerland in which she said that America's record on supporting gays was “far from perfect” but suggested that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
“In many ways, they are an invisible minority,” Clinton said, according to her prepared remarks. “They are arrested, beaten, terrorized – even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or join in the abuse. Too often, they are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm.”
Clinton offered her belief on a hotly debated topic, claiming that homosexuality was not a choice or an environmental phenomenon. She stated her opinion: “In reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world.”
She continued: “They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.”
“Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality.”
Clinton also announced that the Obama administration will launch a $3 million global equality fund to support the work of civil society organizations supporting LGBT groups around the world. The fund is intended to gather information to target advocacy, teach how to use the law as a tool, manage budgets, train staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and human rights groups.
The clear objective of using taxpayer funds to support LGBT communities abroad is sure to anger conservatives at home, as well as conservative governments abroad; Obama is already facing criticism for the announcement of the initiative.
In a statement, Republican presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said, “This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop...This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.”
He added: “President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles.”
The move by the Obama administration comes soon after British Prime Minster David Cameron who, instead of giving money to gay activists in countries fighting for further LGBT rights, threatened to cut off foreign aid to certain African governments unless they offered increased support to LGBT rights – homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries.
Ugandan presidential adviser John Nagenda shrugged off the threat, telling the BBC: “If they must take their money, so be it.”