In a landmark speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bluntly warned the world against gay discrimination and announced the U.S. will use foreign aid and diplomacy to insist that gay rights are protected.
Clinton compared the struggle for gay rights with women’s rights and racial equality, and warned that cultural or religious discrimination is no excuse for violations.
“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said.
The audience included members of African and Arab delegations where homosexuality is criminalized, and brutality against gays and lesbians is tolerated and even encouraged.
Clinton acknowledged her own country’s imperfect past concerning gay rights and noted that until 2003 many states still had laws criminalizing gay sex.
“Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world,” Clinton said. “Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.”
Clinton cited abuses such as the killings of gays, “corrective rape” of lesbians and forced hormone treatments. She said these abuses are similar to “honor killings” of women, widow-burning and female genital mutilation, all examples of practices the U.S. decries, but does not penalize allies for carrying out.
Her address, which was held in Geneva in front of the U.N.’s human rights body, came on the heels of a statement from President Barack Obama declaring that the U.S. would now consider gay rights when dolling out aid.
“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. 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. 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,” Obama said in the memorandum.
The memo is the first attempt from any administration to combat human rights violations against gays and lesbians. It directs agencies to oppose the criminalization of homosexuality, protect vulnerable queer refugees, enhance foreign aid to countries with solid records supporting LGBT rights, respond quickly to complaints made by queer citizens abroad and encourage international organizations to fight against discrimination.
Domestically, Obama advocated the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members, which is now accomplished, and has ordered the administration to stop defending a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. However, Obama does not back gay marriage and has said his personal views on the matter are evolving.