The United States will began using foreign aid as a means of improving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights abroad, according to an announcement Monday made by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In a presidential memorandum released Monday, Obama said something needed to be done so the U.S. will attempt to wield its power globally.
I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT 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, Mr. Obama said.
The memorandum details instructions for how federal agencies can and should work overseas to make a difference in the effort to stop foreign governments from criminalizing homosexuality. Instructions include efforts to improve protections for LGBT asylum seeks and strengthen opposition to criminalization of LGBT conduct or stated status. The memorandum instructs the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies to use foreign aid as means of building respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.
Some U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia, ban homosexuality, yet it isn't known if the presidential memorandum means that ties with countries that specifically target the gay community will be harmed. Rather, it appeared a statement of purpose with aid used as encouragement to consider alternatives.
Speaking on Geneva Tuesday, Clinton said LGBT rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today.
In many ways, they are an invisible minority, said Clinton said of LGBT individuals, 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.
Clinton said being gay is not a Western invention.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, praised the presidential memorandum. The Obama administration claims it is the first such move by the U.S. government to tackle LGBT discrimination beyond U.S. borders.
We applaud the president for this monumental step forward, and thank Secretary Clinton for taking to the world stage to send the unequivocal message that LGBT people everywhere should be able to live freely and with dignity, said Carey, according to CBS News.
Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry has a different opinion of the effort, however.
This administration's war on traditional American values must stop, said Perry, in a statement. President Obama has again mistaken America's tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.