The Obama administration Tuesday issued the first-ever U.S. strategy to address foreign nations’ human-rights violations against gays, directing all U.S. government agencies to protect them from abuses.
“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] 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,” President Obama wrote in a memorandum with his name attached. “Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.”
It instructs the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies to use foreign aid to “build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, criticized Mr. Obama for being “out of touch with America’s values.”
“This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop,” Mr. Perry said.
“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,” Mr. Perry said. “Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money. President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”
Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council in Washington, said the administration is trying to redefine human rights internationally.
“No treaty, and no generally accepted international agreement, has ever accepted homosexual conduct as a human right,” Mr. Sprigg said. “It’s highly controversial abroad, and within the United Nations.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also delivered an address in Geneva, Tuesday promoting the administration’s advocacy of human rights protections for gays.
“In many ways, they are an invisible minority,” Mrs. Clinton said in 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.”
The Human Rights Campaign in Washington hailed the administration’s actions.
“As Americans, we understand that no one should be made a criminal or subject to violence or even death because of who they are, no matter where they live,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a statement. “Today’s actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people.”
The president’s memorandum spells out that U.S. agencies abroad must “strengthen existing efforts to effectively combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct.”
It also directs those agencies to engage international organizations in the effort to combat discrimination.
Mr. Sprigg said the policy will be especially problematic in certain African nations where there is resistance to the acceptance of homosexuality. He criticized the administration for promoting these efforts while “pulling back” on requiring other countries to recognize religious liberty as a human right.
He cited as one example the decision by U.S. Army personnel to remove a cross from the front of a chapel at a base in northern Afghanistan out of concern for offending the local population.