In a memorandum issued Tuesday, President Obama instructed all U.S. agencies engaged overseas to follow a number of protocols to enhance their defense of LGBTs.
“The struggle to end discrimination against LGBT persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights,” Obama said in the directive. “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.”
Among the steps the agencies should take are the combating of the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, protecting vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, utilizing foreign assistance to protect LGBT rights and engaging international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.
The directive established a standing group, led by the U.S. Department of State, to ensure “swift and meaningful response” to LGBT-rights violations and mandates that all agencies prepare reports within 180 days on their progress toward advancing the protection of LGBT rights.
The agencies included in the directive are the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export-Import Bank and the United States Trade Representative.
“The Obama administration has made a tremendous difference in the lives of LGBT people in the United States, and this new strategy helps to extend that presidential leadership across the globe,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.
The new initiatives were outlined by Secretary of State Clinton Tuesday in a speech to the United Nations in Geneva, where she called on all countries present to respect LGBT rights as human rights.
“Secretary Clinton’s work to impact the international community and its inclusion of LGBT rights will be one of her enduring legacies,” said Paul LeGendre, director of Human Rights First’s Fighting Discrimination Program, who was in the audience for Clinton’s address. “[Clinton] is right: It is time for all nations to implement policies to protect this vulnerable community from violence and discrimination.”
In 2009, Clinton directed the Department of State to create a comprehensive human-rights agenda inclusive of LGBT individuals.
Among the department’s accomplishments since that time are the inclusion of international LGBT-rights issues in the department’s annual Human Rights Report, outreach to push back against a proposed Ugandan law that would heighten penalties against LGBT people and the successful U.S.-led effort to pass the first United Nations resolution on LGBT rights.
The department is currently in the process of establishing the Secretary’s Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership that will work to advance LGBT rights globally, to which the Department of State is contributing more than $3 million.
The fund will raise awareness about LGBT-rights violations, provide assistance to organizations that are facing governmental or societal threats and support programs that advocate for the human rights of LGBT people abroad.
“Today, Secretary Clinton distinguished herself as a legendary champion of rights for all people, including those of us who are LGBT,” Solmonese said Tuesday. “In a remarkable speech to an international audience, the secretary showed the power of American leadership that calls on the world to live up to the idea that all people are entitled to basic human rights and dignity. There is no question that the administration’s record of advancing equality for LGBT people has been enhanced by the leadership of Secretary Clinton.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.