Obama Issues New Memorandum: ‘We Must Stand Up For The Rights Of Gays And Lesbians Everywhere’

Moments ago, President Obama issued a memorandum announcing that the fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide is a major priority of United States’ foreign policy and human rights advocacy. “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,” Obama writes. “That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”

Some highlights from the document:

By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. Specifically, I direct the following actions, consistent with applicable law:

Sec 1. Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad: Agencies engaged abroad are directed to 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.

Sec. 2. Protecting Vulnerable LGBT Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Those LGBT persons who seek refuge from violence and persecution face daunting challenges. In order to improve protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers at all stages of displacement, the Departments of State and Homeland Security shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers have equal access to protection and assistance, particularly in countries of first asylum.

Sec. 3 Foreign Assistance to Protect Human Rights and Advance Nondiscrimination: Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.

Sec. 4. Swift and Meaningful U.S. Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBT Persons Abroad.

Sec. 5. Engaging International Organizations in the Fight Against LGBT Discrimination.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also deliver a major address from Geneva this afternoon, reiterating Obama’s message that eliminating discrimination is a common cause for all countries. Being gay is still a crime in over 80 nations around the world.

Last June, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a formal resolution calling on all countries to combat violence and discrimination committed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.