The Obama administration is announcing wide-sweeping efforts to use U.S. foreign aid to promote rights for gays and lesbians abroad, including combating attempts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality.
In a memorandum issued Tuesday, President Barack Obama directed U.S. agencies working abroad to use foreign aid to help gays and lesbians who face human rights violations.
“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting L.G.B.T. persons around the world,” Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, “whether it is passing laws that criminalize L.G.B.T. status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful L.G.B.T. pride celebrations, or killing men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation.”
He also ordered U.S. agencies to protect vulnerable gay and lesbian refugees and asylum seekers.
“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights,” Obama said in a recent statement.
Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the White House’s latest campaign-minded initiative.
“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct,” Mrs. Clinton said at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, according the New York Times, “but in fact they are one and the same.”
The White House said Tuesday’s announcement marked the first U.S. government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad.
It comes as no surprise that many analysts believe that President Obama’s outreach to gays and lesbians, a core Democratic constituency, is part of his 2012 reelection campaign.
Since taking office, Obama helped repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and ordered the administration to stop enforcing a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. With the 2012 election coming up, he needs to fire up his base.
However, despite this latest attempt to “reach out” to the LGBT community, even the New York Times points out that the Obama administration has yet to explain how, exactly, they will curb human rights violations against gays and lesbians.
“Neither Mr. Obama nor Mrs. Clinton specified how to give the initiative teeth,” writes Steven Myers and Helene Cooper of the Times.
Moreover, Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council’s deputy spokeswoman, pointed out in the Times article that the administration was “not cutting or tying” foreign aid to changes in other nation’s practices.
“Still, raising the issue to such prominence on the administration’s foreign policy agenda is important, symbolically,” Myers and Cooper gush, “much like President Jimmy Carter’s emphasis on human rights.”
Many, however, would argue against how that turned out in the end.
Probably not the president you want to be compared to . . .
According to the Associated Press, Obama’s directive applies to all U.S. agencies involved in foreign aid, assistance and development, including the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.
Not surprisingly, this proposal has drawn criticism from prominent conservatives.
“President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles,” said Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).
Furthermore, the directive will most likely prove detrimental towards alliances with some foreign countries. For instance, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is banned and sex between people of the same sex is punishable by death or flogging, probably won’t look kindly on the White Houses’ campaign initiative.
Nevertheless, despite these international concerns, Clinton pushed on with her speech before the U.N.
“In reality, gay people are born into — and belong to — every society in the world,” she said.
In countries “where people are jailed, beaten or executed for being gay,” she called on leaders to leap ahead of their constituents cultural or social mores, if necessary.
“I’m not saying that gay people can’t or don’t commit crimes,” she said. “They can and do, just like straight people. And when they do, they should be held accountable. But it should never be a crime to be gay.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.