Gay Rights Are Human Rights

Posted by Maria Otero
November 9, 2010
A Hand Holds a Rainbow Flag

About the Author: Maria Otero serves as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.

I remember meeting with Val from Uganda, an activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, last year. Val told me about how she and others activists in her country faced possible persecution for speaking out against policies that criminalized an entire class of people based on sexual orientation. I believe that we have a duty not only to speak out against harmful policies, but also to ensure that people like Val, who are trying to exercise their basic rights as human beings, are protected from possible violence.

Val's story is never far from my mind and is one of the reasons I met yesterday with representatives of the Council for Global Equality, a coalition of 19 human rights organizations that advocate for a stronger U.S. government voice on behalf of the equality and fair treatment of LGBT individuals in the United States and overseas. We had an open and engaging discussion of the State Department's efforts to elevate and integrate inclusion and protection of LGBT individuals into our human rights agenda. These efforts build upon the Obama Administration's commitment to these issues, and further Secretary Clinton's statement that "human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights."

Representatives from around the State Department offered their perspective on prioritizing this human rights issue among embassies around the world. The Bureau of African Affairs explained how it has responded to violence committed against the LGBT community in Uganda, Malawi, and elsewhere. The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs outlined its work to incorporate LGBT protection into the agenda of the Organization of American States and explained how it seeks out regional partners, such as Brazil. The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration explained its work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure protection for LGBT refugees, while our Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor described its work on training officers in the field, including plans to roll out a "toolkit” to human rights officers globally.

Led by Ambassador Michael Guest, a retired Foreign Service officer, the Council for Global Equality expressed its willingness for further cooperation and asked excellent questions about the reaction of our partner governments, opportunities for cooperation with European allies, priorities for foreign assistance, future public diplomacy opportunities around LGBT issues, and other important topics. We obviously have much more work to do in our human rights advocacy around LGBT issues, but I left feeling encouraged by these impressive and dedicated activists and their leadership. These are not single-issue advocates, but a group of dedicated human rights professionals who seem well-prepared to effectively carry their concerns into our democracy and overseas as an integrated part of our overall human rights diplomacy. And, hopefully, through our joint efforts, Val and others like her will be able to live freely and without fear of persecution.

You can view Secretary Clinton's "It Gets Better" video and remarks here.



Georgia, USA
November 9, 2010

Joshua in Georgia writes:

As a scholar of international relations I fully understand the severity of the treatment against homosexuals in other states around the world. I also realize that the State Department does not formulate domestic policy, but the President influences both the State Dept's focus and domestic policy. Therefore, before we start criticizing other states for their lack of human rights for homosexuals, the President and others in the government should assure that homosexuals within American have their full human rights. Instead, this administration has done little, if nothing, to push for full marriage equality, and even worse, encouraged the DOJ to appeal a ruling that DADT is unconstitutional, by using the red herring that it is a legislative issue.

That said, I am pleased that the State Department acknowledges the violence that homosexuals face by the governments of other states, and wishes to confront and end such abuses.

Massachusetts, USA
November 10, 2010

Jacob in Massachusetts writes:

I agree with Joshua in Georgia--what is happening around the world is important and of consequence for LGBTQ people, but it's a bit embarrassing that our State Department would write this entry while "DADT" is still being deliberate, while queer youth are killing themselves all over the country, while same-sex partners struggle for equal recognition and benefits under law, and while this country is dominated by a culture of violent harassment towards LGBTQ people. If we're going to tout morality at other countries, it would certainly help if we had our own house in order.

Kathleen O.
District Of Columbia, USA
November 11, 2010

Kathleen O. in Washington, D.C. writes:

The United States government is not a monolith. Many people opposed to poor treatment of LGBT people overseas are not necessarily the same people opposed to greater rights for LGBT people at home.

What's more, while the United States may have many problems when it comes to addressing the rights of its own LGBT people, you cannot seriously compare the situation of most LGBT Americans to that of LGBT people in Uganda, Rwanda, Iran, India, Iraq, Jamaica, or most of the non-Western world. The fact that the U.S. is not perfect should not keep our nation from coming to the aid of LGBT people facing death, rape, torture, and other horrors abroad. There is a reason that so many LGBT people seek asylum here. While things are far from perfect for LGBT Americans, moral equivalence in far from appropriate in this situation.

Pamel G.
West Virginia, USA
November 13, 2010

Pamela G. in West Virginia writes:

I think the rights of gays around the world are in dire need of drastic change. I do not think other countries will take us seriously until the US treats gays on an absolute equal basis. If we can show them we have changed it will help give them incentive to also change.

New York, USA
November 15, 2010

Art in New York writes:

gay rights are gay rights shoouldn't be confused with human rights for all

Ronna S.
Missouri, USA
November 15, 2010

Ronna S. in Missouri writes:

Sir, you need to overturn DADT, or you will not be re-elected. People are downcast and feel they have been betrayed....another segment of the population believed you when you campaigned on the possibility of decriminalizing cannabis. I respectfully ask you consider these things, please. Thank you.

Arizona, USA
November 18, 2010

Thomas in Arizona writes:

I belive that the gay public should do what the women and blacks did we should demand our rights...We are all human beings and i thought we were all created equal and should be treated that way...


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