Unfinished Business

Clinton & Obama’s Memo to the World: LGBT Rights Are Human Rights

By Colleen Cowgill, a fall 2011 intern

President Obama released a memorandum yesterday outlining a strategy to combat international discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. The memorandum, entitled “International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons,” outlines seven actions to be taken by the U.S. administration and the international community, including: combating criminalization of LGBT status, protecting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, and enhancement of foreign assistance directed at protecting human rights.

“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,” said Obama upon issuing the memorandum. After the memorandum was released, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, commemorating International Human Rights Day (December 10th) and recognizing the need to protect the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct,” Clinton said, “but in fact they are one and the same.”

Civil and human rights advocates are lifting up this memorandum as a move in the right direction.

“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… There is no question that the administration’s record of advancing equality for LGBT people has been enhanced by the leadership of Secretary Clinton who consistently underscores the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights”- Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign.

“LGBT rights are human rights. The Obama Administration should be commended for its ongoing efforts to lead in the protection of LGBT rights at home and abroad.” – Elisa Massimino, President of Human Rights First.

“President Obama released a Presidential Memorandum directing all federal agencies abroad to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people in U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance work. The National Center for Transgender Equality applauds their continued leadership in this area.” – Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“The presidential memorandum is the first-ever U.S. government strategy dedicated to combating the abuse of LGBT people abroad. History is being made, but more importantly, lives will be improved and even saved.” – Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.